U.S. data, Syria push TSX off three-month high

Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:29pm EDT
 
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By John Tilak and Rod Nickel

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended little changed on Monday after political tension in Syria and sluggish U.S. economic data weighed on sentiment, offsetting gains made by producers of gold and fertilizer on a jump in commodity prices.

The Toronto market's benchmark index eased from the three-month high it hit earlier in the session after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Syrian government was trying to cover up evidence of a deadly chemical attack, signaling the United States was edging closer to a possible military response.

Also undermining sentiment was data that showed orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods had the biggest drop in nearly a year in July, as well as news that Silvio Berlusconi's center-right party threatened to bring down Italy's coalition government over a vote to expel the former prime minister from parliament.

North American fertilizer producers Potash Corp (POT.TO: Quote) and Agrium Inc (AGU.TO: Quote) benefited from a spike in U.S. corn and soybean futures as hot and dry crop weather threatened crop yields.

Fertilizer stocks traditionally track prices of grain and oilseeds on the notion that farmers tend to buy more fertilizer in periods of high crop prices to maximize production.

Potash Corp shares, which were hit earlier this year by news of the breakup of a large potash cartel, had the biggest positive influence on the index, according to Reuters data. Potash stock jumped 2.4 percent to C$32.10; Agrium was up 3.3 percent to C$94.07.

"Both stocks were badly mauled by the fears of the breakup of the cartel," said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada, adding that "you would see a bounce with any glimmer of good news".

He said it was too early to tell what impact the post-consortium environment would have on the companies. "We don't know how Potash and Agrium will perform in a new pricing regime."   Continued...

 
A Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) logo is seen in Toronto November 9, 2007. REUTERS/Mark Blinch