TSX falls, lower commodity prices weigh on resource stocks
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's benchmark stock index fell on Thursday as gold miners and other resource stocks lost ground along with lower commodity prices, while a major oil producer surged on strong earnings.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO: Quote), the country's largest independent petroleum producer, jumped 5.3 percent to C$40.50 after reporting quarterly profit that blew past analysts' expectations.
The surge helped the index's heavyweight energy group gain 0.2 percent even as oil prices fell after U.S. crude stocks hit an all-time high and official data showed Russia did not cut oil production in February. [O/R]
The materials group, however, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies and accounts for 12 percent of the index, lost 3.7 percent as gold and copper prices were pressured by a stronger U.S. dollar on growing expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this month. [GOL/] [MET/L]
"From a May hike or perhaps a June hike to now almost for sure a March hike is the catalyst that has led to the weakness in gold and obviously moved the gold miners," said Kevin Headland, senior investment strategist at Manulife Investments.
Barrick Gold (ABX.TO: Quote), the world's largest gold producer, fell 4.4 percent to C$24.11, and gold royalty company Franco-Nevada Corp FNV.TO lost 5.6 percent to C$82.08.
Gold XAU= prices were on track for their weakest session since December, while prices for copper CMCU3 and a string of other metals also fell. [GOL/][MET/L]
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 63.03 points, or 0.40 percent, at 15,536.65. Continued...