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