TORONTO Canada's main stock index is expected to see-saw higher next year as loose U.S. monetary policy and steady global growth entice investors to the resource-heavy market, a Reuters poll found.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was seen ending 2011 at 14,000, according to the median forecast of 26 analysts and fund managers in a poll taken over the past week.
That forecast is nearly 20 percent higher than Tuesday's close of 13,250.67. The index has gained around 13 percent so far in 2010.
Many analysts expressed a vote of confidence in the underlying string of economic factors that pushed the TSX index to pre-recession highs above 13,000 last week.
"As we look into 2011 we're going to see an acceleration in global, U.S. and Canadian economic growth. So the growth rates will be increasing and consensus forecasts are going to start getting revised up for the economy, and probably for 2011 earnings," said John Johnston, chief strategist for Harbour Group at RBC Dominion Securities.
"That's going to drive reallocation of money away from bonds and toward equities."
From that point onward, however, Johnston foresees the index sputtering into next summer and fall as the 2012 outlook softens with China possibly clamping down on its red hot economy.
The median call on the TSX index for mid-2011 was 13,750 -- compared to 12,500 in a September poll -- but some respondents said the market could weaken before marching higher.
Estimates for the TSX index heading into the middle of next year were in a wide range -- from 11,000 to 15,000 -- reflecting uncertainty about market action. For the year-end projection, the range was 11,500 to 16,500.
Major factors affecting the performance of the TSX index were euro zone debt concerns, the U.S. economic recovery, as well as broader worries that China would tighten the reins on monetary policy.
Any surprises on those fronts could cause the market to abruptly switch tracks. Indeed, not every analyst was bullish.
"We're in a very fragile recovery. Probably our best scenario would be very, very modest growth, choppy markets," said Michael Sprung, president of Sprung & Co Investment Counsel.
The cautious approach is one currently being taken by the Bank of Canada, which on Tuesday held rates steady, emphasizing its concern over weaker exports and the risks posed by Europe's debt woes.
The central bank has raised its benchmark lending rate
three times this year, but paused after its September increase, signaling it would be more comfortable waiting until the global recovery gained more traction.
The bank's announcement comes on the heels of domestic data that showed softer than forecast employment gains in November, as well as weaker than expected third-quarter growth.
Recent U.S. data showed employment barely grew in November while the jobless rate unexpectedly hit a seven-month high. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said on Sunday the central bank could buy more than the $600 billion in U.S. government bonds it has already committed to shore up the fragile recovery.
(Additional reporting by Ka Yan Ng, additional polling by Bangalore Polling Unit; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)