Canada's main stock index moved lower Wednesday, as weakness in financial and tech stocks helped outweigh strength in energy, while U.S. markets recovered losses near the end of the day ahead of a much-anticipated earnings report from Nvidia after the bell. 

Markets were lower throughout most of the day, especially after the release of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s last interest rate decision mid-afternoon, said Michael Currie, senior investment adviser at TD Wealth. 

However, markets picked up heading into the close with both the Dow and the S&P 500 ending the day in the green. 

The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed down 45.15 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 21,172.38.

In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 48.44 points at 38,612.24. The S&P 500 Index was up 6.29 points at 4,981.80, while the Nasdaq Composite was down 49.91 points at 15,580.87.

The minutes showed the central bank “hedging their bets,” Currie said, speaking of both confidence and caution.

“They see the risk of cutting too much is greater than the risk of cutting too little.” 

The Fed previously said it expects to cut rates three times in 2024, and for a while, markets were expecting double that, with cuts beginning as early as March. But as the year wears on, those bets have been eroded by resilient economic data.

Now, it looks far more likely that cuts will begin in June than in March, said Currie, and that the Fed will cut four times, not six. 

Wednesday was also a day of waiting, as earnings from technology giant Nvidia were scheduled to come out after the bell. 

The technology giant reported quarterly revenue of US$22.1 billion, and diluted earnings per share of US$4.93. Both figures were higher than expectations, according to financial data firm Refinitiv. 

Those results will drive markets on Thursday, said Currie. Investors want nothing less than “blowout” numbers from the stocks leading the ongoing rally on Wall Street, he added. 

Nvidia, as one of North America’s most valuable companies, is “just gigantic. And so it’s just a huge bellwether,” said Currie.  

“People really want to see big things from them.” 

The overarching trend for this earnings season in Canada and the U.S. has been that companies with disappointing results or outlooks — even just a little lower than expected — are getting punished more than usual, said Currie. 

He cited Palo Alto Networks as an example, which saw its stock sink more than 28 per cent after its forecasts disappointed. 

“We're certainly seeing bigger moves than we normally do,” said Currie. 

“If you have a good day or a bad day, it's really good or really bad.”

The Canadian dollar traded for 74.01 cents U.S. compared with 73.98 cents U.S. on Tuesday.

The April crude contract was up 87 cents at US$77.91 per barrel and the April natural gas contract was up 22 cents at US$1.86 per mm/BTU.

The April gold contract was down US$5.50 at US$2,034.30 an ounce and the March copper contract was up a penny at US$3.88 a pound.

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 21, 2024.