CANADA STOCKS-TSX hits six-week low on Fed fears, National Bank

Wed Dec 4, 2013 5:14pm EST
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* TSX falls 14.95 points, or 0.11 percent, to 13,304.92
    * Eight of the 10 main index sectors decline
    * National Bank drops after results

    By John Tilak
    TORONTO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index touched
its lowest point in six weeks on Wednesday after signs of a
strengthening U.S. economy heightened fears that the U.S.
Federal Reserve might soon begin scaling back its monetary
stimulus program.
    Further weighing on sentiment was a 1.5 percent drop in
shares of National Bank of Canada after the lender
reported a 4 percent fall in fourth-quarter profit.
    Also getting attention, the Bank of Canada held its key
interest rate steady but noted that the risks of undesirably
weak inflation now appear greater than they did six weeks ago.
    Much of the market's focus, however, remained on U.S.
economic data, which has been increasingly upbeat. Reports on
Wednesday showed U.S. private employers topped expectations in
adding jobs in November and that sales of new U.S. single-family
homes recorded their biggest increase in nearly 33-1/2 years in
    "Those concerns are going to wax and wane," said Elvis
Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global
Securities in Vancouver. "By no means is this a runaway
expansion, which will force the (Fed's) hand in terms of
tapering stimulus at a very sharp pace." 
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 closed down 14.95 points, or 0.11 percent, at
13,304.92, after touching 13,234.47, its lowest since Oct. 23.
    Eight of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red.
    Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, lost
0.7 percent. Royal Bank of Canada, the country's biggest
lender, gave back 0.8 percent to C$69, and Toronto-Dominion Bank
 declined 0.4 percent to C$95.75.
    But the materials group, which includes mining shares, was
up 2.1 percent. Goldcorp Inc gained 3.1 percent to
C$22.93, and fertilizer producer Potash Corp climbed
1.7 percent to C$34.39.
    In other corporate news, Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd
 dropped 22 percent as shares began trading ex-rights.
Shareholders are entitled to buy one share of Turquoise Hill at
a discount for each share owned as of Dec. 6, but trades entered
on Wednesday will not clear until after that record date.