CANADA STOCKS-TSX ends flat amid Ukraine fears, upbeat U.S. data
* TSX down 5.26 points, or 0.04 percent, at 14,178.84 * Six of 10 main index sectors decline * Oil prices help push up energy shares By John Tilak TORONTO, March 27 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended little changed on Thursday after worries about the Ukraine crisis overshadowed positive economic signals from the United States. The index's energy and materials groups rose on higher prices for some commodities, but shares of banks and insurers declined. A government report showed that fourth-quarter U.S. economic growth was faster than previously estimated, and separate data indicated that new applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week to a near four-month low. Worries about the crisis in Ukraine continued to nag at the market, however. Ukraine has won an IMF-linked $27-billion international financial lifeline, it was announced on Thursday, while Moscow's economy minister warned of slowing growth in Russia. "Notwithstanding these geopolitical risks, the market continues to be driven by monetary policy," said Vincent Delisle, a managing director and investment strategist at Scotiabank, referring to the U.S. Federal Reserve's stimulus program. "The first-quarter numbers in the U.S. have been dismissed by the Fed and by investors and blamed on the weather," he said. "I would agree with that." Delisle is optimistic about the prospects for the Canadian equity market, which underperformed the S&P 500 in 2013. "It's definitely a year when the TSX comes very close to the S&P 500 in terms of market returns, in contrast to last year." After hitting a near six-year high last week, the benchmark Canadian index has gained about 4 percent this year, but it is down on the month. The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed down 5.26 points, or 0.04 percent, at 14,178.84. Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red. Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, dropped 0.4 percent. Bank of Nova Scotia shed 0.7 percent to C$64.22, and Manulife Financial Corp gave back 0.7 percent to C$21.27. The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, climbed 0.3 percent. In the group, Goldcorp Inc added 1 percent to C$27.46, and Barrick Gold Corp rose 0.8 percent to C$19.95. With oil prices rising, energy shares advanced 1 percent. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd climbed 1.1 percent to C$41.79 and Suncor Energy Inc was up 1.6 percent at C$37.21. ($1=$1.11 Canadian) (Editing by Peter Galloway and James Dalgleish)
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