UPDATE 4-Toronto stocks end lower, but well off 200-pt fall

Tue Mar 4, 2008 5:27pm EST
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO, March 4 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index trimmed losses but ended lower on Tuesday due to a selloff in financial and materials shares as commodity prices fell and quarterly results from two major banks disappointed.

It was the third session in a row that the index has finished negative, but late in the day it pulled away from earlier losses of more than 200 points.

The index's materials sector slid 1.8 percent, while that sector's gold producers subindex gave up 3.1 percent, hurt by profit-taking after a strong surge the previous session.

Tumbling gold prices also pressured resource shares as a fall in crude oil prices pulled spot gold off recent highs. In Toronto, Barrick Gold ABX.TO was down C$2.02, or 3.8 percent, at C$50.90, and Kinross Gold K.TO gave up C$1.04, or 4 percent, to C$24.86.

Bank of Montreal BMO.TO lost C$1.47, or 3 percent, to C$46.89 after the bank reported a worse-than-expected drop in profit, stung by writedowns related to the capital market and rising provisions for bad loans. Shares of BMO have skidded 17 percent so far this year.

Bank of Nova Scotia BNS.TO tumbled after its earnings fell just shy of what the Street expected, as it was also hurt by credit market-related charges and higher loan-loss provisions. Scotiabank finished down 91 Canadian cents, or 2 percent, at C$45.59. The financial sector as a whole was down 0.7 percent.

A broker forecast of more hefty losses for U.S. bank Citigroup C.N also added to the sour sentiment in both Canada and the United States.   Continued...