UPDATE 1-Toronto stocks steady after volatile start

Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:57am EDT
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TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock market index was little changed by midmorning on Monday, after trading on both sides of the break-even mark as investors looked ahead to the start of a new quarter.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up just 15.56 points, or 0.1 percent, at 13,249.35. Earlier, the index touched a high of 13,335.95. This follows a drop of more than 170 points on Friday.

Seven of the TSX index's 10 main groups were higher, including the energy group which rose 0.8 percent and the heavily weighted financial group which added 0.5 percent. Consumer staples shares climbed 1 percent.

"People are getting anxious for the start of a new quarter," said Steve Ibel, an institutional equities trader at Beacon Securities in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"I think we are going see the markets pick up a bit and see some more buyers come into the market as some people deploy cash in some selected areas."

The index is down more than 2.5 percent for the quarter amid worries over the health of the global economy and the state of the financial sector.

Energy shares firmed as the price for U.S. crude oil recovered from earlier losses to gain 0.9 percent to $106.50 a barrel, in response to a lull in fighting in Iraq's southern city of Basra which eased fears of potential supply disruptions from the region.

Most of the country's biggest producers rose including EnCana Corp (ECA.TO: Quote) which added C$1.62 to C$77.98 and Nexen Inc NXY.TO, which rose 26 Canadian to C$30.35.   Continued...