September 11, 2013 / 12:50 PM / 4 years ago

TSX steady as bank, energy shares offset Potash drop

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

TORONTO/WINNIPEG (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index was little changed on Wednesday as weakness in Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO) was offset by a lightening of market concerns over the Syrian crisis as the effort to reach a diplomatic solution continued.

Talks on placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control intensified, while U.N. investigators concluded that use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces was almost certainly responsible for two May massacres.

Meantime, investors also braced for the possibility that the U.S. Federal Reserve will move this month to scale back its stimulus program.

“The market really can’t make up its mind,” said Michael Sprung, president of Sprung Investment Management. “There are a lot of concerns out there that are plaguing the market.”

“The market is very fearful of the effect (the Fed’s stimulus wind-down) might have, and people are concerned about the fragility of the recovery,” he added.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 0.94 points, or 0.01 percent, at 12,825.42.

Potash Corp had the biggest negative influence on the index, dropping 3 percent.

Shares of Potash and other producers of the crop nutrient potash fell after strong advances in the two previous sessions that were linked to optimism that Russian rival Uralkali could change strategy.

Reports circulated on Monday that billionaire Suleiman Kerimov might sell his stake in Uralkali, leading to speculation about a renewed partnership between Uralkali and Belarusian potash producer Belaruskali that would support potash prices.

But Uralkali said on Tuesday it had no plans to return to the trade alliance with Belarus, and the world’s biggest nickel producer, Norilsk Nickel (GMKN.MM), said on Wednesday it had no interest in Kerimov’s stake.

The market wanted to believe that the Russians and Belarusians will reconcile “but that hasn’t been proven just yet,” said Stan Wong, vice president and portfolio manager at Macquarie Private Wealth.

“Shorter term, the drama that’s played out in these two countries is still going to keep fertilizer companies a bit under water,” said Wong, whose portfolio includes Potash.

Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red.

The materials sector slipped 0.2 percent, with the Potash losses offsetting gains in gold producers.

Gold-mining shares added 0.4 percent as bullion prices edged higher. <GOL/> Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) gained 1.6 percent to C$28.60, and Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) was up 0.7 percent to C$19.20.

Shares of energy producers climbed 0.1 percent. Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) rose 0.7 percent to C$36.68, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO) advanced 1.4 percent to C$32.76.

Financials, the index’s most heavily weighted sector, rose 0.2 percent. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), the country’s biggest lender, added 0.2 percent to C$66.20.

A consortium led by Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO) won a $288 million contract from Azerbaijan Railways to deliver signaling systems for an international corridor connecting Asia and Europe. Shares of Bombardier jumped 2.2 percent to C$5.06.

Dollarama Inc (DOL.TO) reported a better-than-expected 20 percent rise in second-quarter profit, bolstered in part by lower expenses, more traffic and new store openings. The stock jumped 7 percent to C$79.30.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

Editing by Peter Galloway

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