CANADA STOCKS-TSX ends flat as Korea news spooks investors

Fri Mar 26, 2010 5:07pm EDT
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 * TSX down 0.74 of a point to 11,957.37
 * Financials, energy lead index lower
 * Materials up 1.6 percent
 (Updates to close, adds details, quotes)
 By Claire Sibonney
 TORONTO, March 26 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index
ended little changed on Friday as the sinking of a South Korea
naval vessel stoked worries about geopolitical tensions in
Asia, offsetting growing confidence over a deal for debt-ridden
 News of the ship sinking with more than 100 people on board
stirred fears of the possibility of a military confrontation,
even though Seoul said it was not clear if North Korea was
involved. [ID:nSGE62P0GW]
 The incident stymied the market just as positive sentiment
was building around an agreement that would provide a safety
net for Athens as it struggles to cut a giant budget deficit.
 Gold stocks like Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO rose along
prices for the safe-haven metal, while financial issues such as
Royal Bank of Canada RY.TO slipped.
 "There's always something in the world that is going to
spook the markets, no matter if the markets are expecting it or
not," said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall,
MacDougall & MacTier.
 The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
.GSPTSE finished 0.74 of a point, or 0.01 percent, lower to
11,957.37. The index ended the week flat at 0.1 percent
 "It just seems to me as if investors are looking for
excuses to take some of their profits," said Elvis Picardo, an
analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.
 "The underlying tone is still quite healthy, but given that
we've come up quite substantially from last month's lows, I
think investors are a little trigger happy," he added.
 The heavily weighted financial sector was hit as Royal
Bank, the country's biggest lender, retreated 0.9 percent to
C$59.82, after hitting its highest point since 2007 earlier in
the day at C$60.55.
 Bank of Nova Scotia BNS.TO was down 1.5 percent to
C$51.05. and Toronto-Dominion Bank TD.TO lost 0.7 percent to
 The powerhouse energy sector was down 0.2 percent, with
Suncor Energy Inc SU.TO, the country's largest oil company,
down 0.1 percent to C$30.85, and natural gas major Encana Corp
off 0.7 percent to C$30.35.
 Oil prices fell below $80 after data showed the U.S.
economy grew less than expected last quarter, and the plan to
bail out Greece failed to quell concern over fragile economic
recovery. [O/R]
 Eight of the 10 sectors were lower, but materials issues
rose 1.6 percent, reflecting firmer gold prices and copper at a
two-week high. [GOL/] [MET/L]
 Barrick ABX.TO, the world's biggest gold producer, gained
2.1 percent to C$38.42, while base metals miner First Quantum
Minerals FM.TO added 1 percent to C$90.72.
 ($1=$1.03 Canadian)