Business Report AFTER THE BELL: U.S./China trade optimism give markets lift, Canadian retail sales rise 2.7 percent SHARE ON: Troy Landreville, staff Friday, Feb. 22nd, 2019 While a trade meeting that directly involves U.S. President Donald Trump boosted investor optimism stateside, it was a flat day on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The president was to meet with China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, as Washington and Beijing look to hash out a trade deal before the March 1 deadline. If the deadline isn’t met, the U.S. is threatening to hike tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 to 25 percent. On Bay Street, the TSX clawed 12 points higher near the final bell, with the key financials sector among the four sectors in the red. There were a few stumbles among the index’s most actively traded companies, most notably cannabis producers Aphria, Aurora, Cronos, and Canopy Growth, all of which were in the red. As a whole, the pot-stock dominated health care sector was off by just over a percent. Another pull was SNC Lavelin, which was down 2.9 percent percent after the beleaguered Montreal-based engineering and construction firm reported a fourth quarter net loss of $1.6 billion, while slashing its dividend by 65 percent. The company’s CEO Neil Bruce described 2018 as “a disappointing year,” noting that the company’s mining and oil and gas segments “under performed.” Oil prices rose slightly, with crude moving up 19 cents to $57.15 US a barrel, as investors bank on a potential U.S./China trade deal bumping up demand. In New York, the Dow rose 181 points and the Nasdaq added 67 points, driven mainly by renewed trade optimism. Both indexes are on pace for nine consecutive weekly gains. Broad based gains among tech stocks, including Apple, and jumps in Chevron and Exxon Mobile moved markets higher. The loonie shot up 56/100ths of a cent to $0.7612 US, while it was a decent day for gold, up $3.00 to $1,327 an ounce. Elsewhere, a report from Statistics Canada shows that retail sales in 2018 totaled $605 billion nationwide, up 2.7 percent from 2017. However, Retail sales did edge down 0.1 percent to $50.4 billion in December. StatsCan reported that lower sales at gasoline stations (minus 3.6 percent) were partly offset by higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers (plus one percent). Excluding gasoline stations, retail sales increased 0.4 percent.