Canada election points to rocky path for currency and stock markets


Canada’s election introduces a wild card to volatile currency and equity markets as voters head to the polls Monday in a tight three-way race with little chance of a clear winner. Incumbent Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper enters the final weekend with his decade-long reign at risk, trailing the Liberal Party led by Justin Trudeau. The latest polls suggest Trudeau is poised to win the most seats in Canada’s Parliament, while falling short of the 170 required for a majority. New Democrat Thomas Mulcair remains in the mix, leading to potentially fraught negotiations to form a minority government through alliance. Canadian equities and the dollar have struggled this year amid a plunge in commodities prices, expectations of higher U.S. interest rates and slowing global growth in recent months. The multiple combinations and inherent instability of a minority government adds another element for investors to grapple with. “Canada may face a protracted period of uncertainty in various minority government scenarios,” said Derek Holt, a Bank of Nova Scotia economist, in a note to clients on October 15. Canadian equities have rallied 4%t in October after capping the worst quarterly slump in four years in September. The Canadian benchmark is down 5.4% this year and is the worst-performing market in the Group of Seven industrialized nations. The Canadian dollar, also known as the 'loonie' for the aquatic bird, is down 10% for the year, headed for a 2003 low. One loonie buys 77.47 U.S. cents. But a recent bout of strength has lifted the currency off its lowest point in 11 years. It has risen five of the last six weeks as prices for crude oil, one of the country’s largest exports, strengthened and the economic growth outlook brightened.

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