Toronto stocks inch lower amid economic unease

Mon Jun 9, 2008 5:14pm EDT
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO (Reuters) - An early advance on the Toronto Stock Exchange fizzled out on Monday, leaving the main index little changed as energy shares cut gains, and worries over consumer spending and the global economy weighed.

Investor jitters were carried over from Friday when the price of oil saw an unprecedented jump of more than $10. A retreat by crude on Monday helped ease price concerns somewhat, but investors remained wary of more volatility.

"At the moment, there is some optimism that it has eased off for the day, but oil is still one of those things that can jump at any given point in time without any notice whatsoever," said Adrian Mastracci, portfolio manager and president at KCM Wealth Management Inc. in Vancouver.

Oil for July delivery fell $4.19, or 3 percent, to $134.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday. Prices have more than doubled over the past 12 months.

The heavyweight energy sector moved against the price of oil for most of the day and finished up 0.2 percent. The sector was mixed, with Canadian Oil Sands Trust COS_u.TO down C$1.54, or 3 percent, at C$50.75, and Suncor Energy (SU.TO: Quote) gaining 54 Canadian cents, or 0.8 percent, to C$70.00.

In a zig-zag session, in which the benchmark climbed more than 100 points in the morning, the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 8.79 points, or 0.06 percent, at 14,960.76. All but three of its 10 main sectors were lower.

On the upside, fertilizer company Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO: Quote) galloped to a record high after Goldman Sachs said prices for potash and phosphate should continue to climb. Potash shares climbed as high as C$232.60 before easing to close up C$5.94, or 2.7 percent, at C$226.74.

Agrium (AGU.TO: Quote) moved up C$2.45, or 2.6 percent, to C$96.65 along with Potash, as the fertilizer firms helped the materials sector gain 0.6 percent.   Continued...