UPDATE 2-Toronto stocks pulled down by oils, economic fears

Fri Feb 15, 2008 1:59pm EST
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(Updates numbers, adds details, quotes)

TORONTO Feb 15 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index recovered some of its earlier losses but remained lower on Friday afternoon, weakened by nagging concerns over the prospect of a U.S. recession.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 56.69 points, or 0.43 percent, at 13,151.34 with seven of its 10 main sectors lower.

The heavyweight energy sector led the decline, falling 0.7 percent. EnCana ECA.TO was down C$1.21, or 1.7 percent, at C$69.56, and Suncor Energy SU.TO slid C$1.02, or 1.1 percent, to C$96.40.

The negative tone was sparked by heightened worries over the health of the U.S. economy after a series of bleak economic reports, including data that showed U.S. consumer sentiment was much lower than expected in February.

The index also continued to feel the fallout of Thursday's statements by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who said that he sees sluggish growth ahead.

"The general sentiment is negative on the financial side (and) certainly there's more confirmation coming in every day that the United States is slowly but surely plodding into a recession," said Lex Kerkovius, senior research analyst at McLean & Partners Wealth Management Ltd., in Calgary, Alberta.

"No one knows for sure, but I think the assessment is that they're in a recession and they have to come to grips with that, and Bernanke's testimony is certainly not helping people's confidence there either."

Kerkovius also said fears over the health of bond insurers and the overall credit market were putting downward pressure on financial stocks.   Continued...