TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index ended lower on Thursday after weaker-than-expected U.S. and Canadian economic data sparked investor jitters and underscored the fragility of the global recovery.
Data showed new U.S. jobless claims scaled a nine-month high last week and Mid-Atlantic factory activity contracted in August for the first time in more than a year.
"Once again it's weak data coming not so much from Canada but from the U.S.," said Elvis Picardo, analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver. "That's again raised concerns about the extent of slowing growth in the U.S. Those concerns tend to spill over to the rest of the world."
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended the session down 70.90 points, or 0.6 percent, at 11,710.18.
In Canada, data showed wholesale trade for June and the leading indicator for July came in lower than expected, which didn't help to lift investor spirits.
"It's a very skittish market. It's very tender in which direction it wants to go," said Greg Eckel, senior vice president Morgan Meighen & Associates, referring to the index's reaction to daily data releases.
Eight of the index's 10 main groups fell into the red, led by weakness in financials and energy.
Among key decliners were Toronto-Dominion Bank, off 1.6 percent at C$70.15, and Suncor Energy, down 0.9 percent at C$32.99.
The TSX index may have fallen further had it not been for strong gold-mining stocks, which got a lift from higher bullion prices.
Barrick Gold rose 0.4 percent to C$46.67.
Also offsetting the general weakness was takeover target Potash Corp., the world's biggest fertilizer producer, which was up 2.1 percent at C$154.86 as investors held hope for a higher offer to emerge after pushing the stock up some 30 percent in the past three days. Anglo-Australian miner BHP Billiton embarked on a $39 billion hostile attempt to take over Potash this week.
"Rightly or wrongly, investors are factoring in a much higher bid from BHP, or from someone else," said Picardo.
"The thinking is that potash is a hot commodity. Potash Corp is -- whether it's BHP or someone else -- very likely to be acquired in the short term."
Elsewhere, Research in Motion, up 0.7 percent to C$52.48, continued under the spotlight as the BlackBerry maker faces an August 31 deadline to give Indian authorities the means to track and read BlackBerry Enterprise email and its separate BlackBerry Messenger service.
Shares in Canadian business software firm Open Text soared 16.6 percent to C$44.80 after the company posted solid results after the close on Wednesday.
The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index closed 4.60 points lower, or 0.67 percent, at 682.08.
Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson