TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index finished down for the first time in five sessions on Monday, as declines by the country’s two largest railways and fears about Spain’s shaky banking sector offset energy share gains due to higher oil prices.
Analysts cautioned moves were exaggerated by thin trade due to the Memorial Day holiday in the United States.
“It was a fairly listless day,” said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada. “You can’t grasp anything significant for some of these price moves.”
Eight of Canada’s 10 main sectors finished in the red. Losses were led by the industrials group, due to a weak performance by Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd (CP.TO) and Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO).
CP shares fell more than 2 percent to C$75.52 as a strike by 4,800 locomotive engineers, conductors and railyard workers at the railway entered its sixth day on Monday.
However, the end was near as the Canadian government announced it will force striking workers back to work with fast-track legislation aimed at restoring rail service by Thursday.
CN, which stood to benefit from a prolonged strike at its biggest competitor, saw its shares slip 1.9 percent to C$81.95.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 10.32 points, or 0.1 percent, at 11,566.15.
Another drag came from Europe, where shares turned lower and the euro slipped back toward two-year lows as a plan by Spain to use public debt to revive one of its troubled banks pushed up the premium investors demanded to hold the Madrid government’s bonds. <MKTS/GLOB>
“Greece is the sideshow, Spain is the real story,” said Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services. “Spain will be the next one to get the bailout and they need the help.”
Despite being down for most of the day, Canadian financial shares finished slightly higher. Top insurer Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) led gains, rising 2.3 percent to C$11.49. Banks were led higher by Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO), which climbed 0.5 percent to C$70.39.
Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) finished up 0.2 percent at C$50.43, after the country’s largest lender said it will register a C$180 million ($175.57 million) boost to its third-quarter results after resolving a tax dispute with Canada Revenue Agency in the bank’s favor.
Markets were also helped by weekend Greek polls which showed the conservative New Democracy party, a supporter of the bailout plan, with a slight lead over the anti-bailout leftist SYRIZA party, although analysts said the outcome of the June 17 election was still too close to call.
Adding to the positive sentiment were hopes China may take steps to boost its flagging economy.
Oil and gas firms were up 0.5 percent, as U.S. crude oil futures rose. <O/R>
Energy gains were paced by Pacific Rubiales PRE.TO, which climbed 1.9 percent to C$27.28 and Canadian Oil Sands COS.TO, up 1.4 percent at C$20.97.
In other company news, shares of Research In Motion Ltd RIM.TO edged up 0.4 percent to C$11.39 even after the BlackBerry maker announced its top lawyer has resigned, joining a parade of long-time company executives to depart since Thorsten Heins took over as CEO earlier this year.
Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson