CANADA STOCKS-TSX flat as gold gains offset weak global data

Thu May 24, 2012 5:46pm EDT
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* TSX ends up 1.27 points, or 0.01 pct, at 11,566.07
    * Gold miners offset financial, energy sector losses
    * Italy PM remarks on Greece lift markets
    * Weak euro zone, U.S., China data weigh

    By Jon Cook	
    TORONTO, May 24 (Reuters) - Canadian stocks were little
changed in choppy trade on Thursday  as gold mining gains offset
a slew of weak data from Europe, China and the United States,
which added to fears about global growth.	
    U.S. financial markets will have a long weekend, closing on
Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.	
    On Wednesday the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite
index rallied 300 points to finish sharply higher.
Twenty-four hours later another late-afternoon surge in gold
mining stocks helped the index avert a loss and end up for the
third day in a row.	
    "The swings are showing how nervous the European situation
is overshadowing our markets," said Rick Meslin, head of
Canadian equities at UBS Securities Canada. "It can be great
news or awful news and it happens moment by moment."	
    On Thursday, markets were boosted late by comments from
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, who said in an interview on
a television talk show that he believed Greece would remain in
the euro zone. 	
    The TSX finished up 1.27 points, or 0.01 percent, at
11,566.07, rebounding nearly 100 points after hitting a session
low at 11,472.75. It was also its highest close in 10 days.	
    Gains were led by the heavyweight materials sector, which
includes gold miners, which rose 0.7 percent. Gold stocks
rallied for the second straight day as bullion halted its
three-day slide, boosted by International Monetary Fund data
showing another rise in central bank gold holdings in April.
    The most influential gainers included Iamgold Corp,
up 5.3 percent at C$11.00, Eldorado Gold, which climbed
2.4 percent to C$11.96 and Kinross Gold, up 2 percent to
    Meslin said increased uncertainty about whether Greece,
which has elections next month, will stay in the euro zone had
investors treating gold as a safe-haven play.	
    "Gold is turning into again just what gold always used to
be, which is that safety trade," he said. "There has been so
much correction in gold shares that finally now when things are
bad in Europe you see gold react well."	
    Investor confidence was still shaky after Wednesday's news
that European Union leaders have been advised by senior
officials to prepare contingency plans in case Greece quits the
single currency. 	
    Sentiment worsened after PMI data for the euro zone region
showed activity was declining at a faster pace than expected in
    Manufacturing output also slowed in the world's two largest
economies. China's industrial sector retreated to 48.7 in May
from a final reading of 49.3 in April and a U.S. manufacturing
index dipped to 53.9 in May from 56.0 the previous month.	
    "The euro crisis could hit Canada fairly hard," Paul Taylor,
chief investment officer at BMO Harris Private Banking, said in
a conference call on Thursday. "Global financial market angst
would cause a fairly significant risk-off trade and this would
affect us here disproportionately."	
    Taylor also said a Greek exit from the euro could cause the
TSX to slide "another 8-10 percent."	
    Canadian financial shares fell 0.7 percent after some mixed
second-quarter earnings results from the country's top lenders.
Toronto-Dominion Bank shares rose 0.3 percent to C$78.99
after Canada's No. 2 bank said on Thursday its quarterly profit
rose 20.7 percent. 	
    However, gains were muted by Royal Bank of Canada,
which tumbled nearly 3 percent to C$51.38 after Canada's largest
bank reported a 7 percent decline in quarterly earnings on
    Both banks' share prices are now trading below year-ago
levels as the earnings growth environment has cooled.	
    "They're not going to blow up," said Meslin, adding UBS is
"overweight" on its investment in Canadian banks. "But it
doesn't mean they continue to go up."	
    In other news, Canadian Pacific Railway shares
rallied 3 percent to C$77.25 after Canadian Labour Minister Lisa
Raitt said the government could order the railway's striking
employees back to work as early as Monday. About 4,800 CP Rail
locomotive engineers, conductors and traffic controllers walked
off the job on Wednesday after contract talks broke