CANADA STOCKS-TSX lower as weak financials offset gold strength

Fri Feb 20, 2015 11:21am EST
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* TSX down 53.80 points, or 0.35 percent, at 15,158.95

* Nine of 10 main index sectors advance

By Andrea Hopkins

TORONTO, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index slipped on Friday as grim domestic economic news and prospects for another interest rate cut weighed on financials, offsetting strength in gold stocks and a surge in drugmaker Valeant as it closes in on a deal to buy Salix.

Retail sales fell by the most in four years in December, data showed, with subdued holiday shopping and cheaper oil accounting for the surprise 2 percent drop.

Bets that the Bank of Canada will cut rates at its March 4 meeting have increased as signs of economic weakness multiply.

The heavyweight financial sector fell 1.2 percent, with Royal Bank of Canada down 1.7 percent to C$75.92 and Toronto-Dominion Bank shedding 1.3 percent to C$53.75.

Elsewhere, investors remained focused on a possible agreement between international lenders on Greece's proposal for extending its loan agreement.

"The backdrop is the Greek exit - the Grexit - that's going to dominate news over the next few days until this game of chicken resolves itself," said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada.   Continued...