Toronto stocks little changed after choppy day

Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:24pm EST
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO (Reuters) - Early gains on the Toronto Stock Exchange fizzled out on Friday, leaving the composite index little changed at the end of the day as investors opted to lock in profits after a week of wild swings.

A retreat by banking shares helped offset advances in the materials sector and robust gains for Potash Corp of Saskatchewan.

Potash, the world's biggest fertilizer producer, climbed C$4.05, or 3.1 percent, to C$133.98 a day after it doubled its fourth-quarter profit and offered a positive forecast for the year. The materials sector, home to resource shares, rose 1.4 percent.

The financial sector, the largest on the index, was off 0.7 percent. Toronto-Dominion Bank fell C$1.02, or 1.5 percent, to C$66.28 after its U.S.-based takeover target, Commerce Bancorp Inc, said its fourth-quarter profit fell, while its credit losses quintupled. Commerce is being bought by TD for $8.5 billion in cash and stock.

Analysts said that, given the turbulence the market has seen, it wasn't surprising that investors were wary of making big bets at the end of the week.

"I think the essence here is that we seem to have found a little traction in the last couple days ... and hopefully we can build on that and find a way to work our way higher," said Rick Hutcheon, president and chief operating officer at RKH Investments.

"It shouldn't be much of a surprise to see the market take a step back after some of the gains we've (had this week)."

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 12.44 points, or 0.1 percent, at 12,894.83 after racing up by more than 200 points in the morning. Six of the TSX's 10 main groups were lower.   Continued...

<p>A Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) logo is seen in Toronto November 9, 2007. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>