Soft financials weigh on Toronto stocks

Thu Feb 14, 2008 12:15pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index was little changed late Thursday morning, with stronger oil and gas issues offset by investor worries over the state of the U.S. economy.

Declines in the financial sector helped undercut gains elsewhere, as the sector fell 1.1 percent. Sun Life Financial Inc (SLF.TO: Quote) sagged C$1.63, or 3.3 percent, to C$47.53 after its fourth-quarter profit rose slightly, but missed expectations.

On the upside, EnCana Corp (ECA.TO: Quote) helped the energy sector push higher after it posted a 63 percent jump in profit. EnCana, Canada's largest oil and gas company, was up 53 Canadian cents, or 0.8 percent, at C$70.53, while the sector overall rose 0.8 percent.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 24.82 points, or 0.19 percent, at 13,257.48, with six of its 10 main sectors in negative territory and one flat.

Also in the oil patch, Nexen Inc NXY.TO added 43 Canadian cents, or 1.5 percent, to C$29.70 after it said its profit more than doubled on rising commodity prices.

A gain in oil prices added to the sector's upward momentum due to worries over supply. Crude rose $1.93 to $95.20 a barrel.

Investors also had their eyes south of the border amid continued uncertainty over the economic health of the United States, Canada's largest trading partner.

"The jury, in my view, is still out if we're going into a recession in the U.S., but the stock market has made the decision until recently that we are either in a recession or going into a recession," said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier.

"That's why we're seeing a bounce back in the last week or so. People are starting to question if we are going (into a recession) for one, and, secondly, maybe it's just a period of slow growth."   Continued...

<p>A Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) logo is seen in Toronto November 9, 2007. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>