CANADA STOCKS-TSX falls on soft U.S. data, China

Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:16pm EDT
 
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* TSX down 13.09 pts, or 0.1 pct, to 12,417.61
    * Energy, financials drag
    * Soft U.S. home sales, China fears weigh
    * Agrium, gold miners pare losses

    By Jon Cook	
    TORONTO, March 21 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index
edged down again o n W ednesday as financial and resource issues
were hurt by an unexpected drop in U.S. February home sales and
continued concerns about a slowdown in Chinese demand for
commodities.	
    U.S. data on Wednesday showed home resales fell 0.9 percent
in February and the supply of properties on the market rose,
underscoring the hurdles for a recovery in housing. Economists
polled by Reuters had expected sales to rise. 	
    A slide in U.S. sales could have a spillover effect and hurt
Canada's hot housing market, which has sparked policymakers to
warn Canadian homeowners about escalating household debt levels.	
    Regulators have recently targeted banks over concerns that
ultra-low mortgages being offered could put consumers in
jeopardy when interest rates rise again. 	
    On Wednesday, financial shares dragged the overall
index lower, falling 0.5 percent. Bank of Nova Scotia 
dropped 0.8 percent to C$55.30, Royal Bank of Canada 
fell 0.7 percent to C$57.73 and Bank of Montreal also
dipped 0.7 percent to C$58.49.	
    Around noon (1600 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX
composite index was down 13.09 points, or 0.1 percent,
to 12,417.61, extending two days of losses.	
    Investors had hoped Wednesday's U.S. housing data would
reinforce recent sentiment that the economy had turned the
corner and help ease fears about slowing growth in China.	
    "The Chinese-slowing-economy theme is continuing to drive
Canada lower because of its heavy resource exposure," said
Marc-Andre Robitaille, president and portfolio manager at
Robitaille Asset Management. "Oil is still weak today and is
keeping Canada a bit weaker."	
    Brent crude fell below $124 a barrel, after falling
more than a dollar in the previous session. 	
    Energy sector losses were led by Enbridge, which
sank 1.5 percent to C$37.07 after the oil and gas producer said
it would increase its preferred share offering to C$350 million.
 	
    "A large shareholder sold their position and it was done at
a very small discount so that's the reason the stock is down,"
said Robitaille.	
    Suncor Energy shares edged down 0.5 percent to
C$32.89 and TransCanada Corp dropped 1 percent to
C$42.48.	
    Mining stocks were mixed as China concerns hit copper
prices, but gold prices were lifted by a slightly lower
greenback.  	
    Copper miner Teck Resources fell 1.3 percent to
C$35.27, while Canada's top gold miner, Barrick Gold 
inched up 0.1 percent to C$43.51. Centerra Gold Inc 
shares jumped 5.7 percent to C$16.43.	
    In other news, Agrium was up 1.2 percent to
C$88.61, a day after the Calgary, Alberta-based retailer of farm
products was part of Glencore International PLC's C$6.1
billion bid for Viterra Inc. Agrium will pay about a
total of C$1.65 billion for most of Viterra's farm products
retail stores and related assets.