CANADA STOCKS-TSX ends flat as weak commods offset banks, deals

Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:39pm EDT
 
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* TSX ends down 8.05 points, or 0.07 pct, at 12,128.89
    * Six of 10 sectors in positive territory

    By Claire Sibonney	
    TORONTO, April 18 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index
ended slightly lower on Wednesday as commodity markets dropped
broadly, but stronger financials and a series of deals in the
consumer, health and mining sectors put a firm floor under
losses. 	
    Among the most influential laggards, Goldcorp Inc 
lost 2 percent to C$40.51, Potash Corp fell 1.5 percent
to C$42.86, and Canadian Natural Resources slipped 1.4
percent to C$32.20.	
    The prices of oil, gold and other resources were down on
mixed factors including a rise in inventories, lackluster demand
and some disappointing earnings from several U.S. bellwether
companies.   	
    European debt concerns also flared up again a day ahead of a
critical bond sale in Spain, seen as a test of Madrid's capacity
to grapple with financial and budgetary pressures.
 	
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 ended down 8.05 points, or 0.07 percent at 12,128.89.
Six of the 10 sectors, however, were firmer, including
financials, up 0.3 percent.	
    All of Canada's five big banks were in positive territory,
including Bank of Nova Scotia, up 0.6 percent to
C$55.42, and Toronto-Dominion Bank, up 0.5 percent to
C$83.94.	
    "When you look at the price/earnings multiples on the
Canadian banks and the current dividend yields and you compare
them to a different sector, say the public utilities or the
pipelines, they offer good relative value and comparable or
higher yield," said Arthur Salzer, chief executive officer of
Northland Wealth Management. 	
    "And if you are an investor that thinks Europe will muddle
their way through and that we're not going to have another 2008
credit meltdown, then the banks are attractive and we have been
buying here on dips."	
    A slew of mergers and acquisitions led to other bright spots
on the index. Canada's Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc,
which operates convenience store chains in Canada and the United
States, jumped 15.5 percent to C$39.60 after it struck a deal to
buy Norwegian company Statoil Fuel and Retail ASA for
15.9 billion crowns ($2.8 billion). 	
    "Investors like the deal, they see something there in terms
of a dramatic increase in earnings that could happen," said
Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin
Financial Services.	
    "I'm always nervous when companies go out of their core
competency, they know the North American economy, they know how
that works ... and then all of a sudden they announce this
out-of-nowhere deal."	
    SXC Health Solutions Corp  rallied 11.3
percent to C$88.63 after it said it will buy rival U.S. pharmacy
benefit manager Catalyst Health Solutions Inc for about
$4.4 billion. 	
    Ivanhoe Mines  surged nearly 16 percent to
C$13.49 after its founder and Chief Executive Robert Friedland
agreed to step down as part of a financing deal with its
majority shareholder Rio Tinto  that will help
fund construction of the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in
Mongolia. 	
    In other company news, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International
Inc  edged up 0.8 percent to C$54.83 after
announcing it will buy certain assets from Atlantis Pharma, a
branded generic pharmaceutical company, for about $71 million,
to expand its footprint in Mexico. 	
    Canada's third-largest grocery store operator, Metro Inc
, reversed earlier gains after reporting a higher
quarterly profit, and ended the day down 0.4 percent to C$53.40.
 	
    WestJet Airlines rose 2.5 percent to C$14.53 after
it reached a deal with Thomas Cook Group to be the
exclusive airline for the UK travel group's tour operator
business in Canada this coming winter, wresting the business
from a competitor.