UPDATE 3-Toronto stocks hit hard by profit-taking

Wed May 21, 2008 4:36pm EDT
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(Updates official closing numbers, adds details, quotes)

* Late-day losses takes index sharply lower

* Energy stocks hit by profit-taking

TORONTO, May 21 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index ended a volatile session sharply lower on Wednesday, as profit-taking hit energy issues, sparking a broad late-day selloff following recent record highs.

After pushing higher earlier in the day, oil and gas companies reversed, while crude hit a record high over $133 a barrel after an unexpected drop in U.S. crude stockpiles.

The energy group, whose heavy weighting has been largely responsible for the Toronto index's recent run-up, lost 1.5 percent. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote) was down C$1.43, or 1.4 percent, at C$103.93, while Suncor Energy (SU.TO: Quote) slipped C$1.39, or 1.9 percent, to C$70.98.

"It looks like there's some profit-taking starting in the oils," said Lex Kerkovius, senior research analyst at McLean & Partners Wealth Management Ltd. in Calgary. "Some of these oils that were really running hard are coming off from the morning."

"When you get that kind of rise in commodities - fast, furious, quick - everyone wants to take some (money) off the table."

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 256.97 points, or 1.71 percent, at 14,790.37 with all but one of its 10 main sectors negative.   Continued...