November 12, 2009 / 4:09 PM / in 8 years

CANADA STOCKS-TSX choppy as economic prospects weighed

* TSX down 0.05 percent at 11,434.25

* Softer commodity prices pressure energy, materials

* All big banks rally on economic hope (Adds details)

By Ka Yan Ng

TORONTO, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index seesawed slightly lower on Thursday morning as strength in banks battled with softer oil and gold prices, and investors weighed a Wal-Mart earnings outlook against an improvement in the U.S. labor market.

Most of the index’s weakness came from the resource groups, oil and gas and materials, as U.S. crude oil futures CLc1 fell, while gold edged off the record high it hit early on Thursday as the U.S. dollar recovered from lows. [O/R][GOL/]

As a result, top commodity-linked stocks such as Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) eased 0.6 percent to C$44.81 and Suncor Energy SU.TO slipped 0.4 percent to C$36.58.

“We’re seeing a lot of volatility in the commodities. It’s a moving target today,” said Michael Sprung, president at Sprung & Co. Investment Counsel.

U.S. new jobless claims for the week fell to their lowest level since January, pointing to improvements in the U.S. employment market. But an earnings outlook for the crucial Christmas quarter from retail giant Wal-Mart (WMT.N) cast doubt about the strength of consumer spending in an economic recovery. [ID:nN12404234]

“I think the fact that they are tempering their outlook gives everyone a bit of a concern. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the overlevered consumer and the state of the economy,” said Sprung.

All six of Canada’s biggest banks were among the most influential gainers, rising on hopes for the economy and as new home prices rose in September at their fastest rate in 20 months. [ID:nN12411618]

Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) led with a 0.8 percent gain to C$57.62, followed by Toronto Dominion Bank (TD.TO), up 1 percent at C$66.59.

At 10:45 a.m. (1545 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 5.50 points, or 0.05 percent, at 11,434.25.

Corporate results were also in focus as some of the country’s biggest companies in the energy and telecom sectors posted quarterly earnings.

EnCana (ECA.TO) skidded 1.1 percent to C$60.01 to top the most active decliners as Canada’s largest natural gas producer reported a 99 percent drop in profit. [ID:nBNG165791]

BCE Inc (BCE.TO) rose 0.3 percent to C$27.16 after posting a jump in quarterly profit that topped analyst expectations as subscribers flocked to new mobile phones and services, despite the weak economy. [ID:nN12404622]

$1=$1.05 Canadian Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson

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