*TSX up 0.2 percent at 12,136.90
*Materials, financials lead index higher (Updates prices, adds quotes, details)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, April 21 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index was slightly higher in volatile trading at midday on Wednesday with gains kept in check by falling commodity prices and as profit-taking undermined the impact of robust North American earnings.
The index’s weighty materials sector gained 0.6 percent even as gold prices trimmed gains and base metal prices fell as the U.S. dollar made safe-haven gains due to renewed concerns about the fiscal health of Greece. [GOL/] [MET/L]
Shares of Teck Resources TCKb.TO, the country’s largest base-metals miner, added 0.8 percent to C$42.03, after the company reported its first-quarter profit more than tripled. [ID:nN20129089].
Gold-mining stocks were up more than 1 percent. Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO), the world’s largest bullion producer, shot up 1.5 percent to C$39.62, and Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) jumped 1.6 percent to C$39.40.
“I guess you’re just seeing some movement in to the golds because that’s probably one sector that’s lagged in the last few weeks,” said Bruce Latimer, a trader at Dundee Securities.
Powerhouse financials were also slightly higher. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), the country’s biggest lender, gained 0.1 percent to C$61.37, and Manulife Financial (MFC.TO), North America’s largest life insurer, added 0.5 percent to C$19.69.
The index’s energy sector was slightly lower as oil prices slipped towards $83 a barrel after U.S. government data showed an unexpected increase in crude inventories and fuel stocks. [O/R]
EnCana Corp (ECA.TO), Canada’s largest natural gas producer, fell 0.2 percent to C$31.71, despite reporting a quarterly profit that was up three-fold. [ID:nN21161034]
“From an earnings point of view, the numbers have been great,” Latimer said.
“But you’ve also got institutional investors and pension fund managers that bought these stocks looking for good earnings. They’re seeing the good earnings, so they’re taking profits.”
U.S. stocks drifted lower on Wednesday on losses by healthcare and energy stocks, offsetting strong gains by blue chips Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Morgan Stanley (MS.N). [.N], which both reported strong earnings.
At 12:42 p.m. (1642 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 23.37 points, or 0.2 percent, at 12,136.90 after seesawing through the morning. Five of its 10 sectors were higher.
Irwin Michael, portfolio manager at ABC Funds, saw markets remaining volatile in the short term.
“It’s a tug of war. There’s a lot of cash out there,” he said.
“Earnings are a little better than expected but there is still a difference of opinion. A lot of people are waiting for the market to sell off because it has come a long way.”
Metro Inc MRUa.TO, Canada’s No. 3 grocery chain, was down 0.4 percent at C$41.63, despite reporting a higher quarterly profit. [ID:NN21171257]
$1=$1.00 Canadian Reporting by Claire Sibonney, editing by Peter Galloway