CANADA STOCKS-TSX flat as oil drags, 9 groups advance

Wed Dec 31, 2008 10:05am EST
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* Oil price retreats, pressures oil and gas sector

* Oilexco top loser and most traded, unit faces insolvency

* Labopharm up 42 pct, FDA approves pain drug Ryzolt

TORONTO, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock market index was flat on Wednesday but was under pressure as the price of oil fell and offset gains in the index's nine other groups.

Oil was down almost $1 a barrel to just above $38, heading for a fall of more than 60 percent in 2008 as the global economic slowdown bit deep into energy demand. For details, see [ID:nSP253619]. The oil and gas sector was off 0.6 percent.

In individual energy news, oil and gas exploration company Oilexco OIL.TO said its UK subsidiary faced insolvency. [ID:nLV536038] The stock was the most traded and highest-percent loss leader, down 74 percent at 23 Canadian cents.

At 9:55 a.m. (1455 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 1.42 points at 8,832.14.

Still, after two straight days of triple-digit gains, the TSX may be able to eke out yet another advance to finish a rollercoaster trading year despite the retreating oil prices.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed on Tuesday at its highest level in more than four weeks in a broad-based rally. But it is still down about 36 percent this year.   Continued...