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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index slipped on Thursday as pessimism about economic growth hit banks and insurers, offsetting limited resource stock gains on the back of Middle Eastern violence that pushed oil prices higher.
Saudi Arabia and its allies launched air strikes on rebels in Yemen that spooked investors, boosting commodity markets but dampening enthusiasm for equities globally.
While oil prices LCOc1 CLc1 jumped more than 4 percent, Canadian producers saw much more modest advances or even slipped on the day.
"Investors are getting used to the fact that oil is volatile, it swings back and forth quite a bit on a day-to-day basis," said Marcus Xu, a portfolio manager at M.Y. Capital Management Corp in Vancouver.
After an early rise, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended the day down 59.57 points, or 0.40 percent, at 14,869.80.
Xu said he has become more bearish recently on the short-term prospects for the Canadian market, which he said could slip towards 14,000 by mid-year before recovering somewhat.
With recent U.S. economic data introducing doubts about the Federal Reserve's interest rate trajectory, investors are trimming bullish holdings in Canadian banks, said Michael Sprung, president at Sprung Investment Management Inc.
Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) slipped 0.5 percent to C$53.64, while Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) gave up 0.3 percent to C$75.79. Insurer Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO) lost 1 percent to C$21.44, and Brookfield Asset Management BAMa.TO was down 0.9 percent at C$66.49.
The biggest Canadian beneficiaries of the oil spurt were some of its largest operators, which Sprung said are well placed to benefit from likely consolidation as historically low oil prices hurt smaller players.
Reporting by Alastair Sharp Editing by W Simon and James Dalgleish