TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index fell for a fourth straight session on Friday, extending its 2011 losses as lower commodity prices and a fire in the Alberta oil sands pulled down oil and other resource shares.
Oil company Canadian Natural Resources fell 5.47 percent to C$40.60 after a fire late on Thursday halted production at its 110,000-barrel-a-day oil sands project.
The energy group, which accounts for more than a quarter of the index, led declines, dropping 1.1 percent as U.S. crude oil futures ended the first week of the year with the biggest weekly percentage loss in nearly five months.
Suncor Energy, Canada’s biggest oil company, was off 0.43 percent at C$36.98.
The index’s materials group, home to gold miners, fell 0.64 percent. Goldcorp was down 1.02 percent at C$42.50, while Barrick Gold declined 0.77 percent to C$48.69.
Gold prices suffered their longest losing streak in seven months, sliding more than 3 percent this week and falling for a fifth day on Friday after U.S. December jobs data failed to spark safe-haven demand.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index ended down 39.37 points, or 0.3 percent, at 13,272.30. For the week, the index fell 1.27 percent.
“We’re under a little bit of pressure today, but I don’t think it’s anything disastrous,” said Fred Ketchen, director of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.
“In the U.S., significant disappointment continues to plague their economy...problems in the United States continue and we need to be aware of the fallout that will continue to come from our southern neighbors.”
Tempering the index’s losses was a 0.37 percent gain in financial issues, which got a lift from data that showed the Canadian economy created more jobs than expected in December.
Royal Bank of Canada was up 0.79 percent at C$52.02, while Bank of Nova Scotia gained 0.68 percent to close at C$56.25. Toronto Dominion Bank rose 0.51 percent to C$74.20
“There are a couple of factors that might be creeping in on the back of today’s data to impede gains in the short term: those would be the stronger loonie and concerns about potential rate hikes by the Bank of Canada in the months ahead,” said Elvis Picardo, analyst and strategist at Global Securities.
“You couple that with the fact that we’ve had an exceptional run since December and it’s not surprising to see a minor selloff.”
A Reuters poll on Friday showed most of Canada’s primary securities dealers expect the Bank of Canada to resume raising interest rates in the first half of this year.
In individual company news, pharmacy chain Jean Coutu Group, which reported a higher quarterly profit that topped expectations, fell 0.93 percent to C$9.57. The company said it will feel the first impact of Quebec’s drug sales reform initiatives this quarter.
Reporting by Solarina Ho; editing by Peter Galloway