Gains in the technology sector helped lift Canada’s TSX, main stock index to a positive close as U.S. markets were mixed on Tuesday.

Gains in the technology sector helped lift Canada’s main stock index to a positive close as U.S. markets were mixed and the Canadian dollar lost ground against the American greenback on Tuesday.

North American markets returned to a more typical low-volume Christmas week activity level after Monday’s “overblown” reaction to news of a new strain of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom, said Craig Jerusalim, senior portfolio manager at CIBC Asset Management.

Investors appeared to take some comfort from suggestions that while the new strain may be more readily transmitted, it may not be more deadly and vaccines may still be effective, he said.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 51.57 points at 17,552.46 after falling 33.74 points on Monday.

“(What’s) probably affecting Canada the most is the U.S. dollar — the trade-weighted U.S. dollar reversed its trend and it’s up today. That’s going to be negatively impacting all sorts of materials, which does impact the TSX,” said Jerusalim.

“As the U.S. dollar had been weakening, the Canadian dollar had been strengthening. The last couple of days’ reversal on the U.S. dollar is really that flight to safety, the unbridled fears of different strains of the virus and the tighter lockdown in the U.K.”

The Canadian dollar traded for 77.47 cents US compared with 77.83 cents US on Monday.

Stocks drifted in mixed trading on Wall Street after Congress finally approved a US$900-billion rescue package to carry the economy through the winter.

After months of bickering, Congress approved a deal on Monday night to send US$600 cash payments to most Americans, give US$300 per week to laid-off workers and deliver other aid to businesses struggling under the weight of the pandemic.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 200.94 points at 30,015.51. The S&P 500 index was down 7.66 points at 3,687.26, while the Nasdaq composite was up 65.40 points at 12,807.92.

A report that Apple is targeting 2024 to produce a passenger vehicle that could include its own breakthrough battery technology prompted more losses for electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc. on its second day of trading on the S&P 500, but helped bump up the shares of a Canadian company.

Magna International Inc. rose 4.7 per cent to $85.67 on speculation it could be a potential assembly partner to Apple, said Jerusalim.

In Toronto, software companies propelled the information technology sector to a 4.22 per cent rise, with Lightspeed POS Inc. riding a positive stock rating upgrade to close at $86.65, an $8.93 or 11.5 per cent increase.

Shopify Inc. jumped 7.27 per cent to $1,649.23 and Constellation Software rose 4.63 per cent to $1,773.76.

“On the positive side, information technology is red hot and other more growth (oriented) sectors including consumer discretionary, utilities, industrials are all up, so the TSX is actually doing quite well today on a relative basis versus the broad-based U.S. indices,” said Jerusalim.

The February crude oil contract was down 95 cents at US$47.02 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was up eight cents at US$2.78 per mmBTU.

The February gold contract was down US$12.50 at US$1,870.30 an ounce and the March copper contract was down six cents at US$3.52 a pound.

The materials sector fell 2.1 per cent as First Majestic Silver Corp. slid 6.3 per cent, MAG Silver Corp. tumbled 5.7 per cent and New Gold Inc. was down 5.4 per cent.

Energy was off by 1.7 per cent, led by Enerplus Corp., down 5.3 per cent, and Vermilion Energy Inc., down 4.5 per cent.

Originally published at Red Deer Advocate