TORONTO (Reuters) - After two days of big rises, the Toronto Stock Exchange's main index eked out a tiny gain on Tuesday as firmness in financial shares, due in part to a U.S. Federal Reserve plan to aid consumer lending, offset weakness in technology and materials issues.
The index ended virtually flat after swinging in a range of nearly 300 points from top to bottom in choppy activity. For most of the day it was in negative territory.
"It's been a bit of a bun toss here today after both Toronto and New York being so strong the last two days," said Bruce Latimer, trader at Dundee Securities. "There's one camp that seems to feel the rally will continue and one camp that seems to think there is some profit-taking today."
The S&P/TSX composite index ended up 1.99 points, or 0.02 percent, at 8,442.86, with six of its 10 main groups higher. On Friday, the index rose 5.6 percent and on Monday it was up 3.5 percent.
Toronto-Dominion Bank was down 4.7 percent at C$40.89 after it said late Monday it sold common shares worth C$1.2 billion to reassure investors about its capital strength.
The overall financial group, however, rose 0.5 percent, helped by the Fed's announcement of a $600 billion program to buy mortgage-related debt and a $200 billion facility to support consumer finance.
Bank of Montreal, which rose 2.4 percent to C$34.95, also helped lift the sector. Earlier, BMO reported a higher quarterly profit, but said that dividend increases are on hold because of the murky economic outlook.
Research In Motion sank 8 percent to C$50.77 after a research firm said it expects cellphone sales to fall next year as the economic slowdown hits demand. The broader information technology sector was off 2.9 percent.
Materials slipped 1.4 percent on lower metals prices. As well, several miners announced plans to scrap deals or suspend operations, including BHP Billiton, which abandoned its hostile bid for Rio Tinto.
Sherritt International fell 7.8 percent to C$1.77 after it said it is revising the construction plan for its Ambatovy nickel project in Madagascar to cut costs.
Energy issues rose 1 percent even though oil prices settled down $3.73 at $50.77 a barrel on demand concerns. EnCana Corp rose 1.9 percent to C$51.98.
On Wall Street, U.S. stocks rose slightly on hopes the Fed's rescue package could revive a slumping housing market and free up consumer spending.
"Earlier in the day there were mixed feelings about the impact of the bailout package," said Elvis Picardo, analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.
"Toward the end of the day, you saw a late rally in the U.S. market and that helps sentiment on this side as well."
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 36.08 points, or 0.43 percent, at 8,479.47, while the Nasdaq composite index ended down 7.29 points, or 0.5 percent, at 1,464.73.
Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; editing by Rob Wilson