North American stock markets closed higher Friday amid much better than expected job creation data in Canada and the United States. But gains were limited on another day of worries about the U.S. plunging over the fiscal cliff.
Shares in energy giant Nexen Inc. tumbled in a volatile final-hour of trading ahead of an expected announcement by the federal government after the close on dealing with foreign takeovers of domestic resource firms. Nexen fell $ 1.58 or 6.35 per cent to $ 23.29 on heavy volume of 3.6 million shares. Shares also fell on speculation Prime Minister Stephen Harper would also announce a decision on whether Chinese state-owned China National Offshore Oil Company could go ahead with its $ 15.1-billion friendly bid for Nexen. After markets closed, it was announced that the deal had received approval.
Statistics Canada reported the economy added 59,000 jobs last month, while the jobless rate dropped by 0.2 of a point to 7.2 per cent. Economists had expected a smaller increase of about 10,000 jobs, following a minimal 1,800 job gain in October.
The news was equally surprising in the U.S., where economists had expected a lacklustre report with job creation impacted by Superstorm Sandy. But the U.S. Labor Department said the economy cranked out 146,000 jobs in November while the jobless rate decreased 0.2 of a point to 7.7 per cent. On a less positive note, job gains for the previous two months were ratcheted down by 49,000.
Traders later took in other data that showed fiscal cliff worries are affecting consumer confidence.
The Dow Jones industrials ran ahead 81.09 points to 13,155.13 after the widely-watched University of Michigan’s measure of consumer confidence fell to a four-month low of 74.5 in December, from 82.7. The Nasdaq dipped 11.23 points to 2,978.04 and the S&P 500 index edged 4.13 points higher to 1,418.07.