* TSX falls 72.45 points, or 0.6 percent, to 11,972.09
* Materials, energy sectors lead TSX lower
* Strong U.S. dollar weighs on commodity prices (Adds details, quote)
By Jennifer Kwan
TORONTO, March 24 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index fell on Wednesday under pressure from falling commodity prices and diminished investor confidence as sovereign debt concerns mounted.
The index’s powerhouse resource sectors led the way lower, with miner Agnico-Eagle (AEM.TO) down 2.5 percent at C$57.45, Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) falling 1.8 percent to C$38.75, and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) dropping 0.8 percent to C$72.07. The materials and energy sectors fell 1.2 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.
The prices of oil, gold and base metals dropped, and safe-haven buying of the U.S. dollar increased, as investors became nervous after Portugal’s credit rating was downgraded on budget concerns. That added to jitters over Greece’s debt woes ahead of a European Union summit on March 25-26. [MKTS/GLOB] [ID:nLDE62N0XD] [FRX/]
“The U.S. dollar is very bid overnight ... so of course that puts pressure on oil, gold, the commodity stocks,” said Paul Gardner, partner and portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management.
“You’re still getting nervousness from Europe with the so-called PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain).”
At 10:06 a.m. (1406 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 72.45 points, or 0.6 percent, at 11,972.09, with nine of its 10 main groups lower. The sole sector in the black was the small healthcare group, up 0.4 percent.
Canadian fund management company AGF Management Ltd (AGFb.TO) reported stronger quarterly earnings on Wednesday as revenue and assets under management rose due to improvements in global financial markets. AGF shares rose 1.5 percent at C$18.86.
Drugmaker Aeterna Zentaris Inc AEZ.TO rose 3.6 percent to 87 Canadian cents after it said it returned to a fourth-quarter profit, benefiting from higher licensing fees and lower research expenses. [ID:nN24137944]
($1=$1.02 Canadian) (Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; editing by Peter Galloway)