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* TSX ends down 0.55 percent at 9,016.17
* U.S. bank commentary shakes financials
* TSX pressured by lower commodity prices, Barrick hit (Adds details)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, April 6 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index closed lower on Monday but clawed back some of its early losses as rebounds in the heavyweight financial and energy groups offset falling gold miners.
The falling price of gold, which hit its lowest level since late January, put heavy pressure on the materials group. Shares of Barrick Gold (ABX.TO), the main drag on the index, fell 4.56 percent to C$35.61, while Goldcorp (G.TO) was down 1.8 percent at C$37.40. The materials group as a whole ended 2.9 percent lower.
The index fell sharply in the morning as a U.S. analyst's note sapped optimism about the bank sector. A Calyon Securities analyst initiated coverage on some large U.S. banks with "underperform" or "sell" ratings, citing risk-taking by banks in several areas. [ID:nN06391861]
The TSX financials group fell more than 1 percent, but rebounded somewhat to finish down 0.75 percent. Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) fell 2 percent to C$45.26. Insurers offset some of the group's weakness, as Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) gained nearly 2 percent to C$16.71, while Sun Life SLF.TO advanced 0.83 percent to C$24.40.
Energy issues recovered most of their early losses by session's end as the price of oil, a key Canadian export, bounced off its lows and was above $51 a barrel. The energy sector ended nearly flat, down 0.01 percent.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 49.59 points, or 0.55 percent, at 9,016.17, paring losses from a session low at 8,918.98. Six of the index's 10 main groups were lower.
"It's still a fairly resilient market," said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier. "It's off, but not that much, considering the runup that we've had. I think the real test now is that earnings are upon us."
The lower finish for the index follows four weeks of gains that started when it bounced off its lowest level in five years.
"I feel like we're in this grey zone where there's a sense that the worst of the credit crisis is behind us but we're still facing a recession. So you can't be very negative, yet it's tough to be overly positive," said Nakamoto.
Helping to cushion the TSX's decline was another sharp rally by shares of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion RIM.TO, which extended Friday's 19 percent surge. RIM, which reported a solid quarterly profit and a rosy outlook last week, gained 7.2 percent to C$78.04 on Monday. That helped lift the information technology sector 2.46 percent.
Meanwhile, billionaire investor George Soros said on Monday that the U.S. economy is in for a "lasting slowdown" and could face a Japan-style period of relatively low growth coupled with high inflation,
Soros, speaking to Reuters Financial Television, also warned that rescuing U.S. banks could turn them into "zombies" that draw the lifeblood of the economy, prolonging the economic slowdown. [ID:nN06386461]
$1=$1.24 Canadian Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson