UPDATE 2-Toronto stocks lower, stung by profit-taking

Fri May 23, 2008 11:59am EDT
 
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(Updates to midday)

TORONTO May 23 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index was sharply lower at midday on Friday as a sell-off in the heavyweight energy sector prompted investors to lock in profits following recent record highs for the index.

Even though oil prices bounced back over $133 a barrel, Toronto's energy sector slid 1.7 percent, with Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote) down C$2.87, or 2.8 percent, at C$99.23. Suncor Energy (SU.TO: Quote) fell C$1.94, or 2.7 percent, to C$68.89.

The materials sector, home to resources, lost 1.6 percent, hurt as fertilizer companies Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO: Quote) and Agrium (AGU.TO: Quote) both fell. Potash lost C$7.27, or 3.7 percent, to C$189.53, and Agrium gave up C$3.04, or 3.6 percent, to C$80.91.

But the gold producers subindex managed to hold on to gains, edging up 0.1 percent, as bullion prices strengthened. Agnico-Eagle Mines AEM.TO added 56 Canadian cents, or 0.8 percent, to C$70.88, while Goldcorp (G.TO: Quote) rose 31 Canadian cents, or 0.8 percent, to C$41.60.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 165.91 points, or 1.12 percent, at 14,626.45 with all but one of its 10 main sectors turning down.

The Toronto benchmark climbed to a record high over 15,000 for the first time earlier this week before being taken lower by profit-taking.

Toronto Stock Exchange operator TSX Group (X.TO: Quote) slid C$2.06, or 4.6 percent, to C$42.74 after it was downgraded by Merrill Lynch.

Shares of BCE Inc (BCE.TO: Quote) bounced up 54 Canadian cents, or 1.7 percent, to C$33.18 the day after it was taken sharply lower in the wake of a court ruling that raised fears the buyout of the telecom company may be blocked.

The telecoms sector was the lone group in positive territory, inching up 0.03 percent, helped in part by BCE's rebound. ($1=$0.99 Canadian) (Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Peter Galloway)