April 4, 2014 / 11:44 AM / 3 years ago

TSX steady as banks slip, resources gain

3 Min Read

An electronic board displays the midday TSX index in Toronto February 16, 2011.Mark Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was little changed on Friday as a decline in the financial sector after a U.S. jobs report helped offset strength in natural resource shares spurred by higher commodity prices.

In Canada, twice as many jobs as expected were created in March and the unemployment rate dropped for the first time this year, a government report showed.

South of the border, U.S. employers maintained a solid pace of hiring for a second straight month in March, adding 192,000 jobs, after a long winter had clouded recent reports.

But the U.S. numbers missed market expectations, raising doubts among investors about the health of the economy and driving up gold prices. The jump in bullion, which is seen a safe-haven bet in tough economic times, sent gold-mining shares higher.

"From an investor perspective, there's a glacial, but consistent, improvement in the (U.S.) labor market," said Stephen Wood, chief market strategist, North America, at Russell Investments.

"This does little to alter Fed policy," he added, referring to the U.S. Federal Reserve's efforts to pull back on its stimulus program. "The Fed is going to give itself more, not less, flexibility. And the Fed is probably going to want to see some material progress before they begin to tighten."

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 9.11 points, or 0.06 percent, at 14,393.10. It recorded a weekly gain of 0.9 percent and has added about 5.7 percent in 2014.

"Resources will help out the TSX (this year), but I expect a much higher interest rate environment in the fall, which will be negative for the markets," said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada.

Five of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red on Friday.

Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, gave back 0.2 percent. Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) declined 0.2 percent to C$51.48.

Gold-mining shares rose 0.6 percent. In the group, Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) advanced 0.3 percent to C$20.30, and Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) rose 0.8 percent to C$27.36.

Oil prices also climbed, helping drive up the energy sector. Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) was up 0.9 percent at C$39.55, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO) gained 0.2 percent to C$43.65.

In corporate news, Air Canada ACb.TO forecast higher first-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and impairment, and aircraft rent (EBITDAR) due to system-wide traffic growth and increased capacity. The stock shot up 26.7 percent to C$7.30.

($1=$1.10 Canadian)

Editing by Peter Galloway

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