TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index edged higher on Friday despite a sharp drop in shares of Nexen Inc NXY.TO and Progress Energy Resources Corp (PRQ.TO) ahead of a government announcement on what is expected to be its ruling on takeover bids for the companies.
Investors appeared to want to limit their exposure to stocks that could move violently in either direction depending on the announcement, which is also expected to include guidelines on how bids for Canadian companies by state-owned enterprises will be assessed in future.
“People don’t want to be long the uncertainty over a weekend, so it’s just shoot first and ask questions later,” said John Goldsmith, deputy head of equities at Montrusco Bolton.
Nexen fell as much as 15.9 percent and Progress slipped almost 8 percent in late trade, before each pared those losses somewhat, closing down 6.4 percent at C$23.29 and off 4.4 percent at C$19.37 respectively.
China’s CNOOC Ltd has offered $15.1 billion to buy Nexen and Malaysia’s Petronas has bid C$5.2 billion for Progress. The Progress deal has already been rejected by the government once.
“Obviously this is a fairly significant policy decision, not just for Nexen but for the Canadian market and the resource sector specifically,” said Levente Mady, senior portfolio manager at PI Financial Corp in Vancouver.
The news is expected at 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT), with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make a statement soon after that.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended up 8.46 points, or 0.07 percent at 12,159.59 after bobbing on both sides of the break-even line through most of the session. It dipped 0.65 percent on the week.
Data showing strong jobs growth in the United States and Canada helped economically sensitive resources stocks but the broader advance was limited by another day of losses for Toronto-Dominion Bank and a bruising survey on the outlook of U.S. consumers heading into the Christmas season also weighed.
In Canada, data showed a higher-than-expected 59,300 jobs were added in November, with the bulk of hiring coming in full-time positions and in the private sector.
In the United States, Canada’s main trading partner, a bumper 146,000 jobs were created last month, though a drop in the unemployment rate suggested some people gave up the search for work and data for earlier months was revised lower.
“The picture does look somewhat supportive and constructive but at the same time when you dig in there it’s not as rosy as it appears,” said Sid Mokhtari, a market technician at CIBC World Markets.
Pipeline operator Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) gained 3.9 percent to C$41.56 after proposing a C$6.2 billion expansion of its oil pipeline system, aimed at moving surging volumes of light crude from Western Canada and the North Dakota Bakken to refineries in the eastern part of the continent and U.S. Midwest.
Crescent Point Energy Corp (CPG.TO), which produces shale light oil in that region and would benefit from improved access to markets, gained 0.8 percent to C$36.47.
TD fell 0.9 percent to C$80.36, after dropping 1.8 percent on Thursday. Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) reported quarterly results on Friday, the last of Canada’s big banks to do so. It posted a 31 percent profit increase but its shares ended down 3 Canadian cents at C$55.53.
“The results have been good,” Mokhtari said of the banks. “Generally speaking a rule of thumb is that you anticipate the results and position for them and when the news comes people tend to take profit.”
The jobs data pointed to a slow but steady recovery and offered hope for a stronger end to the year and start to 2013.
“It’s not lights out but it is supportive of stronger market performance over time,” said Craig Fehr, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.
“That being said, it would be naive to assume that the fiscal cliff drama isn’t going to continue to be the primary, very short-term, market driver.”
Global markets have in recent weeks been buffeted by concern over setbacks in negotiations to fix the U.S. “fiscal cliff” budget crisis, which, if not resolved, could push the country back into recession.
Companies most attuned to economic signals, including miners and energy companies, saw the biggest gains on Friday. Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) was up 0.5 percent at C$33.27, and Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) rose 1.2 percent to C$36.91 as bullion prices rebounded. <GOL/>
Additional reporting by Euan Rocha; editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Galloway