CANADA STOCKS-TSX little changed as shares of Manulife weigh
By Leah Schnurr and Alastair Sharp TORONTO, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was little changed on Thursday, weighed by shares of Manulife and WSP Global after both companies separately announced deals to buy operations from British firms. That was offset by gains in the consumer staples sector as Alimentation Couche-Tard, a convenience store and retail chain, rose after several analysts raised their price target on the stock. Couche-Tard earlier in the week reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and its shares were up 3.4 percent at C$36.66. Risk sentiment more broadly was lifted after the European Central Bank cut interest rates to a new record low and launched a plan to pump money into the euro zone economy. But it gave Bay Street only a small amount of support. "There are cross currents at work," said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada in Toronto. "There's the move down in interest rates in Europe which caused a lot of volatility in the currencies, then you had the fundamentals such as the big Manulife deal for Standard Life's Canada operations." Manulife Financial Corp was the biggest weight on the index, down nearly 2 percent after it was announced late on Wednesday that it will buy the Canadian operations of Britain's Standard Life in a near-$4 billion deal. Manulife was most recently trading at C$21.94. "Longer-term, this gives it a very big stake in the Quebec market in which they are light," Ing said of the deal. The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index edged up 9.18 points, or 0.06 percent, at 15,666.81. Seven of the index's 10 main groups were in positive territory. WSP Global fell 3.4 percent to C$35.69 after it said it would buy Balfour Beatty's U.S. professional services division. Energy shares edged higher, with Suncor Energy leading the way, up 0.8 percent at C$44.48. Energy stocks have risen about 17 percent this year, but Ing said a build up in commodity inventories could be a bigger concern than stock valuations. "We're more concerned about the build up of the commodities, whether it's oil, whether it's natural gas inventories," said Ing. There's been concern about supply interruptions but meanwhile, inventories still keep on building and eventually that'll put pressure on prices and of course some of these stock prices." (Editing by W Simon)
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