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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index lost ground on Tuesday as financial stocks weighed after the country's trade deficit unexpectedly jumped and exports slumped, while energy companies pulled back as oil prices lifted off a one-month low.
Consumer staples also put pressure on the index, with convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc (ATDb.TO) down 2 percent at C$56.69 and supermarket company Loblaw Cos Ltd (L.TO) off 2.4 percent at C$70.99.
Still, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index's .GSPTSE losses were less pronounced than declines on Wall Street, where investors pocketed gains from a recent rally ahead of an expected drop in quarterly earnings.
"The TSX is holding up better than U.S. indices today, as gains by Valeant Pharma and gold producers are offsetting declines in energy and financial stocks," said Elvis Picardo, strategist at Global Securities.
The TSX index ended down 31.49 points, or 0.24 percent, at 13,304.66, with eight of its 10 main groups in negative territory.
The five-member healthcare sector rose, as shares in Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (VRX.TO) surged 10 percent to C$37.77 after the embattled drugmaker said a board committee had found no need for additional accounting restatements.
The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, gained 1.9 percent as gold XAU= snapped a two-day decline.
The overall financials group slipped 0.5 percent. Insurer Manulife Financial Corp MFC.TO declined 1.1 percent to C$17.80.
Exports slumped by their most in nearly seven years in February, data showed, after hitting a record high in January.
"Given the mixed Canadian economic data – last week’s solid GDP report for January followed by today’s tepid export numbers - all eyes are now on the March payroll numbers to be released on Friday," Global's Picardo said.
The energy group retreated 0.5 percent, as oil CLc1 LCOc1 rose from one-month lows after Kuwait's insistence that major producers will agree to freeze output this month.
Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by James Dalgleish