March 12, 2012 / 8:38 PM / in 6 years

CANADA STOCKS-TSX drops on worries about China demand

* TSX down 75.61 points, or 0.6 pct, at 12,428.01

* Five of 10 main sectors finish lower

* Viterra rises 6 pct on takeover speculation

By Jennifer Kwan

TORONTO, March 12 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index fell for the first time in four sessions on Monday as weak Chinese data fueled growth worries weighing on oil and metals prices and pressuring the resource-heavy market’s key mining and energy sectors.

Leading names on the downside included oil companies Canadian Natural Resources, down 3.1 percent at C$34.40, and Suncor Energy, which fell 3.1 percent to C$33.19.

Goldcorp shed 1.4 percent at C$46.25, while diversified miner Teck Resources fell 2.9 percent to C$35.49.

Resource issues retreated as China posted its largest trade deficit in a decade, fanning worries about the extent to which frail foreign demand held Chinese export growth well below expectations.

Robert McWhirter, president and portfolio manager at Selective Asset Management Inc, said the news revived jitters over China’s move earlier this month to cut its economic growth target to the lowest level in eight years.

“There are concerns that China has effectively targeted a lower rate of growth. People are still trying to figure out what does all that mean to consumption,” said McWhirter.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index finished down 75.61 points, or 0.6 percent, at 12,428.01, with half its 10 main sectors lower.

The materials group fell 1.4 percent and the energy sector dropped 1.8 percent, leading the broader index lower.

McWhirter said the names doing better on Monday included telecom firms BCE, up 0.3 percent at C$41.67, Shaw Communications and Rogers Communications, which both finished around 1 percent higher.

“They’re performing better at the expense of the cyclical energy and golds,” he said of those names.

Bruce Latimer, a trader at Dundee Securities, said volumes were relatively light given March break, and moves could be exaggerated as a result.

“It’s the first day of a vacation week. The volumes are quite light right across the board,” he said.

The TSX index’s performance was weaker than U.S. markets, where defensive names rallied in an otherwise flat day for Wall Street, as traders paused to digest recent gains and looked ahead to a Federal Reserve monetary policy statement later this week.

In individual company news, Viterra Inc shot up 6.4 percent to C$14.45 on speculation Swiss trading house Glencore was one of several parties interested in buying Canada’s largest grain handler.

Glencore is a leading exporter of grain from Europe as well as Australia, where Viterra also has a strong presence.

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