UPDATE 4-Toronto stocks pulled down by resources, US woes

Fri Mar 7, 2008 5:08pm EST
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO, March 7 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index ended firmly lower on Friday, trimming earlier losses in a choppy day but still weighed down by falling resource issues and jitters over the U.S. economy.

Even an unexpectedly big increase in Canadian jobs last month failed to lift the index, which took an early cue from weak U.S. employment data for February.

Statistics Canada said five times more jobs than anticipated were added in February, signaling the economy is racing ahead even as exports sag amid the U.S. downturn.

But investors remained worried by the outlook for the U.S. economy, and the impact on Canada, after U.S. employers cut jobs in February at the steepest rate in nearly five years.

"I think the unlimited flow of bad news out of the U.S. is dampening any sort of positive sentiment on this side of the border," said Elvis Picardo, investment strategist at Northern Securities Inc in Vancouver, British Columbia.

"Today is a classic case: We had job growth in Canada that trumped the most optimistic estimates, and yet all the focus has been on what's happening in the U.S."

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 78.72 points, or 0.59 percent, at 13,281.72 with six of its 10 main groups negative. The index was down 2.2 percent in a week that included both a triple-digit loss and gain. It was lower in four out of the five days.   Continued...