3 Min Read
(Adds portfolio manager quotes, Trump's NAFTA comments, updates prices)
* TSX ends down 3.28 points, or 0.02 percent, at 15,399.11
* Six of the TSX's 10 main groups end lower
By Fergal Smith
TORONTO, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index edged slightly lower on Thursday as investors weighed a more uncertain trade outlook, with losses for the financial and telecom groups offsetting gains for resource shares.
U.S. President Donald Trump said he would like to speed up talks to either renegotiate or replace the North American Free Trade Agreement; Canada sends 75 percent of its exports to the United States.
"With valuations stretched in Canada ... any sort of negative news (on trade) would put the TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange) in a vulnerable state," said Youssef Zohny, portfolio manager at StennerZohny Investment Partners of Richardson GMP.
The S&P/TSX composite index has rallied 33.5 percent since hitting a 3-1/2 year low in January last year, helped by an agreement in November by major oil producers to cut output and the prospect of U.S. economic stimulus.
"A lot of optimism has built up in markets over the last few months, so they are definitely more vulnerable to a pullback from here," Zohny said.
One of the most influential movers on the index was BCE Inc , which fell 1.6 percent to C$57.44 as the telecom company paid heavily to win wireless customers and forecast 2017 profit below analyst estimates.
The overall telecoms group fell 0.5 percent and the heavyweight financials group declined 0.4 percent.
Manulife Financial Corp slipped 1.4 percent to C$24.63 and Sun Life Financial Inc fell 1.8 percent to C$50.16 after the Federal Reserve gave little insight on Wednesday into whether it would raise interest rates at its next meeting.
Higher rates could help reduce the value of insurance companies' liabilities.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended down 3.28 points, or 0.02 percent, at 15,399.11.
Six of the index's 10 main groups ended lower.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd advanced 2.6 percent to C$40.32 and the overall energy group gained 0.4 percent even as oil prices fell.
U.S. crude oil futures settled 34 cents lower at $53.54 a barrel, giving back early gains as traders grew less concerned about tensions between the United States and Iran.
The lack of clarity on the U.S. rates outlook boosted the price of gold, helping Goldcorp Inc add 2.6 percent to C$21.36.
The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.6 percent, while gold futures rose 0.8 percent to $1,214.7 an ounce. (Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)