CANADA STOCKS-TSX falls as China fears offset Europe hopes
* TSX down 40.27 pts, or 0.35 pct, at 11,594.40 * Materials, energy sectors fall 1 pct * Weak China import data hurts commodity prices * Spanish bank deal pares losses * RIM down 4 pct as shareholder meeting begins By Jon Cook TORONTO, July 10 (Reuters) - Canadian stocks slid at midday on Tuesday, led lower by mining and energy shares after weak Chinese import data raised slowdown fears about the world's top consumer, offsetting earlier gains on a bailout deal to help Spain's embattled banks. Investors fretted about a hard landing for the world's second largest economy as data on Tuesday showed Chinese import growth slowed sharply in June to 6.3 percent, well short of the forecast for a 12.7-percent increase. The news was not a good harbinger for China first-half GDP data to be released later this week. "We're in a kind of strange period where markets need something to get them kickstarted," said Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services. Investors have been hoping the recently weak economic data in China and the United States would spur increased stimulus action from their central banks. Last week China cut interest rates for the second straight month, but the U.S. Federal Reserve did not follow suit, despite another disappointing jobs report. On Tuesday, St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told an audience in London that the U.S. economy is still some way from needing more asset-buying stimulus. Canada's heavily-weighted materials sector, which includes miners, dropped 1.2 percent. The equally influential oil and gas group slid 1 percent. The biggest drags on the market included: Barrick Gold , off 1.5 percent at C$36.80; Potash Corp, falling 0.8 percent to C$45.47; Cenovus Energy, down 0.9 percent at C$32.62, and Canadian Natural Resources, which dipped 0.9 percent to C$26.07. At noon EDT (1600 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 40.27 points, or 0.35 percent, at 11,594.40. It touched a session high at 11,706.68 shortly after the open. The China data overshadowed some progress in Europe's battle to control its debt crisis. Spanish bond yields backed off 7 percent - a level which has forced other countries to seek a bailout - after an all-night meeting of euro area finance chiefs agreed on a deal which will release 30 billion euros ($36.9 billion) of bailout funds for Spain's troubled lenders by the end of July. Market watchers were also optimistic Germany's top court would ultimately approve the European Union's new permanent bailout fund, enabling a more flexible use of the latest rescue plan. Canadian financial shares initially rose, but by late morning were flat as euro zone efforts failed to assuage concerns about the region. Bank of Nova Scotia led losses, falling 0.4 percent to C$52.75. Bank of Montreal, the country's largest lender, was up 0.4 percent at C$57.33. Research In Motion Ltd shares fell more than 4 percent to C$7.47 on Tuesday as the beleaguered maker of the BlackBerry held its annual shareholder meeting, with Chief Executive Thorsten Heins promising to turn RIM into a "lean, mean hunting machine." RIM recently posted its first operating loss in eight years and has delayed the planned launch of the next-generation BlackBerry 10 - which RIM hopes will reverse its sinking market share - until early next year. "RIM is going the way of the Betamax and the other technologies that could not catch up with the changing whims of technology," said Schwartz. "Their new BlackBerry 10 might be the best product known to man, but it can't come out fast enough to satisfy the consumer."
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