CANADA STOCKS-TSX nudges to lower close in quiet trade

Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:16pm EST
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   * TSX down 9.50 points, or 0.07 percent, at C$13,371.20
 * Seven of the 10 main groups lower
 * U.S. markets closed on Friday
 By Solarina Ho
 TORONTO, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index
closed marginally lower on Thursday with most sectors
languishing in the red as trading slowed to a crawl ahead of
the Christmas holidays.
 The heavyweight financials group, which has gained in
recent sessions, led all but three of the index's main groups
lower. Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO: Quote) was the big decliner, down
1.38 percent at C$57.05. Manulife Financial (MFC.TO: Quote) was off
1.15 percent to C$17.21.
 The Canadian economy grew less than expected in October,
prompting several analysts to predict the Bank of Canada would
not be raising interest rates any time soon. [ID:nN23134993]
 The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
.GSPTSE closed down 9.50 points, or 0.07 percent, at
 "It's pretty quiet...We're just batting down for the
holidays. The U.S. is closed tomorrow, so probably we're going
to have the same sort of sleepy day tomorrow," said Levente
Mady, market strategist at Union Securities.
 Tempering losses was a modest 0.19 percent gain among
materials stocks and a 0.05 percent advance in the energy
group. Consumer staples was also in positive territory, up 0.17
 Fertilizer giant Potash Corp (POT.TO: Quote) was the most powerful
mover on the positive side and was also one of the top net
gainers. It climbed 1.4 percent to C$145.91. Fellow fertilizer
producer Agrium Inc (AGU.TO: Quote) also rose, rising 1.7 percent to
 Oil and gas shares made some modest headway, with Canadian
Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote) up 0.5 percent at C$44.60, and Penn
West Energy Trust PWT_u.TO up 1.37 percent at C$24.36.
 "Oil is up a dollar, so it's not a big surprise energy's
doing a little bit better and leading things along with some of
the other materials," Mady said.
 Oil prices surged above $91 a barrel to their highest level
in more than two years on Thursday, buoyed by cold weather and
depleted stockpiles. [O/R]
 The TSX has been trading around two-year highs. In the
United States, Wall Street marked its fourth week of gains on
Thursday, the last day of trading for U.S. markets before
Christmas. [.N]
 "This time of year is historically very positive, so I
wouldn't be surprised if we went a little higher during the
sessions that we're open next week," Mady said. "I'm leaning
toward a little bit of further upside going into the year-end
 Among individual companies, Ventana Gold VEN.TO, which
urged shareholders to reject a C$1.5 billion ($1.49 billion)
takeover offer from Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista, was up
1.76 percent at C$13.28. [ID:nSGE6BM0A8]
 Baffinland Iron Mines BIM.TO, a target of a hostile
takeover bid from Nunavut Iron Ore and a friendly bid by
ArcelorMittal, finished up 2.21 percent to C$1.39 after the
Toronto-based junior miner said drilling results from some
deposits at its Mary River project on Baffin Island in the
Canadian Arctic intersected high-grade iron zones.
[ID:nSGE6BM0BH] [ID:nN2242432]
 ($1=$1.01 Canadian)
 (Reporting by Solarina Ho; editing by Peter Galloway)