March 3, 2008 / 5:27 PM / 9 years ago

Toronto stocks little changed in early trading

TORONTO, March 3 (Reuters) - Toronto stocks were little changed in early, fluctuating trade on Monday, as firm resource prices were offset by weak banking shares ahead of the Bank of Canada's next decision on interest rates.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 15.21 points, or 0.1 percent, at 13,597.90.

Throughout the session, the index has flipped between a low of 13,546 and a high of 13,667.

"This market is all over the place and will continue to be all over the place," said Fred Ketchen, director of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.

"I would think we are going to be cautious (ahead of the Bank of Canada move)."

Only four of the TSX index's 10 main groups rose, but a 1.2 percent boost in the energy group and a 2.2 percent rise in the resource-heavy materials index propped up the index.

Oil shares climbed as U.S. crude oil jumped 1.5 percent to $103.33 a barrel on rising prices for heating fuels and a weak U.S. dollar.

Most of Canada's biggest oil companies were higher including Suncor Energy (SU.TO) which added C$3.15 to C$104.65 and EnCana Corp (ECA.TO), which rose 67 Canadian cents to C$75.70.

Gold shares advanced as the price for the precious metal inched closer to the $1,000 an ounce mark. Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM.TO) was up C$1.67 at C$69.67 and Barrick Gold (ABX.TO), the world's biggest producer, was up C$1.62 at C$52.82.

But a 1.6 percent drop in the heavily weighted financial shares and a 0.6 percent dip among consumer discretionary shares tempered the gains.

Financial shares slipped on concerns about the performance of the country's biggest banks who are in the midst of their first-quarter reporting period.

Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) was down C$1.16 at C$48.54 and Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO), was off 83 Canadian cents at C$46.96. Both are due to report results on Tuesday.

Investors digested the latest data showing Canada's annualized economic growth had slowed in the fourth quarter to 0.8 percent from 3 percent in the previous quarter, the most sluggish pace of quarterly growth since 2003.

This may increase the likelihood of an aggressive interest rate cut by the Bank of Canada's policy makers on Tuesday. ($1=$0.99 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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