CANADA STOCKS-TSX little changed; energy gains offset telecom dip

Thu Mar 7, 2013 11:47am EST
 
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* TSX rises 7.99 points, or 0.06 percent, to 12,839.94
    * Six of 10 main sectors decline
    * Index briefly touches 5-week high
    * Canadian Natural gains 1.8 pct after dividend hike
    * Telecoms shares drop 1 pct after gov't policy change

    By John Tilak
    TORONTO, March 7 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was
little changed on Thursday after briefly hitting a five-week
high, as gains in energy shares on higher oil prices were offset
by a drop in telecom issues after the Canadian government moved
to boost competition in the sector.
    Shares of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd were among
the most influential gainers. The stock climbed 1.8 percent to
C$31.74 after the independent oil producer reported a sharp fall
in quarterly profit but raised its dividend. 
    Investors were also encouraged by data showing the number of
Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits
unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting a pick-up in the labor
market recovery. The news helped lift U.S. stocks. 
    The Toronto index is up about 3 percent this year, lagging
an 8 percent rise in the S&P 500.
    "The TSX will go in the same direction as the U.S. market,
but it will lag," said Douglas Davis, chief executive officer at
Davis-Rea. "We're in rougher shape because of our commodity
sector, which is not booming at the moment."
    The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, has shed
more than 9 percent since the start of the year and is the worst
performing group on the index by far. It was down 0.45 percent
on Thursday, hurt by a drop in gold stocks.
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 was up 7.99 points, or 0.06 percent, at 12,839.94. It
rose as far as 12,869.64, its highest point since in Jan. 30.
Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were lower.
    Gains were kept in check by a 1 percent decline in telecoms
shares.
    The Canadian government said it would start the process of
auctioning prime wireless spectrum on Nov. 19 as it announced
plans to extend rules on roaming and cell-tower sharing to help
stimulate wireless competition. 
    Telus Corp gave back 1.4 percent to C$69.81, Rogers
Communications Inc slipped 1.7 percent to C$48.80 and
BCE Inc declined 0.5 percent to C$46.95. The three
stocks, the biggest telecoms providers in Canada, were among the
top laggards on the index.
    Energy shares added almost 1 percent and played the biggest
positive role on the index, helped by higher oil prices and a
rise in Canadian Natural.