TSX trading could take hit from G20; investors to take in Fed rate decision

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TORONTO - The Toronto stock market could be in for some sideways trading on lower than usual volume this week as the G20 summit rolls into the heart of a financial district in lockdown mode.

It's not that trading operations of the big financial firms will be diminished in any way, but with traffic in knots, a threat of violent protests and ultra-heavy security, a lot of clients will plan on being anywhere except Toronto.

"We know our clients are mostly going to take advantage of this to take some vacation time, so overall volumes should be very, very weak," said Jean Francois Dion, portfolio adviser at Canadian Equities RBC Dominion Securities.

"News flow should be fairly weak as well."

Regular trading floors will be staffed, but at diminished levels with many financial institutions moving operations elsewhere, far away from the G20 meeting site.

"Scotia Capital will have minimal staff and those that can work from home will work from home," said Fred Ketchen, manager of equity trading at Scotia Capital.

"And then of course there are satellite offices and there are backup offices around, which I'm not going to tell you where they are."

Ketchen also echoed Dion's assessment that many major players plan to be away.

"They just think that this is going to be a zoo, they don't want to get mixed up with some of these people that are going to be around here trying to create problems," he said.

Trading in the Canadian dollar on the other hand should be unaffected, said George Davis, chief technical analyst at RBC Capital Markets, because currency trading is much more global than equity trading.

"A lot of the financial institutions that are here in downtown Toronto can move things offsite or just divert things to their U.S. operations and cover them there."

Meanwhile, there are two major events this week that could move markets.

The U.S. Federal Reserve holds its scheduled two-day meeting on interest rates with an announcement coming out mid-afternoon Wednesday.

Analysts say that there is no chance of the Fed lifting interest rates from near zero after economic data last week showed the U.S. economy still fragile.

"I think it's going to be a non-event," said Adrian Mastracci, portfolio manager at KCM Wealth Management.

"The U.S. is not in a position to move their rates up yet, their growth is slowing."

Investors will be anxious to see the Fed's latest take on the economy and at the end of the week will get the latest reading on economic growth. The government is expected to announce that annualized growth for the first quarter was three per cent, not far above what is needed just to maintain momentum.

"They need about two per cent just to stay in the air, so they don't stall," added Mastracci.

"The difference between stall speed and what we have is not great and we don't have a lot of cushion here."

Meanwhile, the TSX looks set to end June trading on a positive note after tumbling about 3.6 per cent during May on rising worries about the European debt crisis.

The TSX is close to where it started the year and there isn't a lot of optimism about the second half of the trading year.

"We've been saying for awhile that the second half was a lot less obvious in terms of where growth was going to come from," said Danielle Park at Venable Park Investment Counsel in Barrie, Ont.

"We had two quarters where the stimulus goosed everything and then the question was what kind of lasting benefit were we going to see."

Going forward, she sees the European credit crisis continuing to cast a shadow over markets.

Park also isn't expecting a lot from second-quarter earnings.

"Revenue compression continues to be seen," she said.

"They cut costs for the first couple of quarters and that sort of helped margins. But here now they are already operating on scant workforces and so on and they still aren't seeing a lot of demand for products."

Organizations: U.S. Federal Reserve, TSX, Canadian Equities RBC Dominion Securities Scotia Capital RBC Capital Markets KCM Wealth Management Venable Park Investment Counsel

Geographic location: TORONTO, U.S., Danielle Park Barrie

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