CANADA STOCKS-TSX hits 11-wk low on weak banks, energy

Thu Mar 29, 2012 4:37pm EDT
 
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* TSX down 74.60 points at 12,339.36
    * Nine of 10 sectors dip; healthcare up 0.5 pct
    * Bank, energy issues lead way down

    By Jennifer Kwan	
    TORONTO, March 29 (Reuters) - Canadian stocks fell to a near
11-week low on Thursday as energy issues skidded on weak oil
prices and U.S. jobless data fueled worries about the pace of
global economic recovery. 	
    The hefty energy sector, which makes up nearly a quarter of
the broader index, sank nearly 1.0 percent as oil prices fell
for a third straight session on growing talk of a release of
strategic petroleum reserves by consumer nations spurred
profit-taking. 	
    U.S. natural gas futures tumbled on Thursday, with the
front-month contract ending at a 10-year low as mild weather and
bearish inventory and production data undercut prices. 
 	
    Canadian Natural Resources fell 1.1 percent to
C$32.46 and Talisman sank 2.1 percent to C$12.39.
Encana shed 2.2 percent to C$19.70. 	
    "It's not really a surprise when you see the pressure on the
natural gas side and crude oil," Jennifer Dowty, portfolio
manager at Manulife Asset Management, said of the drop in the
energy complex.	
    U.S. economic data was also a key factor weighing on global
equities, money managers said.	
    New U.S. claims for jobless benefits fell slightly last
week, but missed forecasts of a greater decline, while the prior
week's number was revised up. After a period of improvement,
some investors said the jobs numbers showed worrisome signs of
stalling. 	
    That followed a U.S. durable goods report on Wednesday that
was slightly softer than expected, casting doubt about the
health of the world's biggest economy.	
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 finished the day down 74.50 points, or 0.6 percent, to
12,339.36, with all of its 10 main sectors lower. The index
touched 12,194.53, its weakest level since Jan. 13.	
    The index was down 1 percent for the week, but notched a 3.2
percent gain for the quarter.	
    Dowty also said it's not surprising to see stocks falter
given the run-up so far this year. "We're at quarter end. I
think there's some profit-taking," she said.	
    Other big names on the downside included Royal Bank of
Canada, down 1.4 percent at C$57.98, and
Toronto-Dominion Bank, which fell 0.8 percent to
C$84.39. Potash Corp was lower by 2.4 percent at
C$44.96.	
    Fear about a slowdown in Asia also drove the market lower,
said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall,
MacDougall & MacTier.	
    "Canada has been out of favor for a while. Until people have
confidence in what's going on in China, it'll probably continue
to lag the U.S. markets and other markets," he said. Resource
stocks make up some 40 percent of the broader TSX index.	
    But the retreat isn't expected to last for long.	
    Canadian share prices are expected to march higher in 2012
as resource and financial stocks get a boost from the calming of
the European debt crisis and further signs of economic recovery
in North America, a Reuters poll of analysts showed on Thursday.
 	
    In company news, Encana Corp, among the most
heavily-traded stocks on the broader TSX, will take a final
decision on the Kitimat LNG joint venture before the end of
2012, its chief executive officer said on Thursday, with the
project's partners willing to offer up to 20 percent of the
equity to potential gas buyers.