March 22, 2012 / 12:42 PM / 6 years ago

Weak China, Europe data hits Toronto stocks

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto’s resource-heavy stock index retreated on Thursday alongside global stock markets as weak Chinese and euro zone manufacturing data sparked concerns that global economic growth is slowing.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, March 19, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Chinese manufacturing slumped for a fifth month in March, and manufacturing in the euro zone showed new signs of wilting, according to surveys on Thursday. The soft manufacturing picture helped to push down oil and base metals prices, as well as broader global equity markets.

In Toronto, heavyweight names on the downside included Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), down 3.4 percent at C$33.80, and Suncor Energy (SU.TO), which fell 1.8 percent to C$32.47, as the price of oil skidded 1 percent. Teck Resources TCKb.TO fell 1.8 percent to C$35.05, and First Quantum (FM.TO) skidded 3 percent to C$19.13.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE finished down 74.68 points, or 0.6 percent, at 12,361.81, with six of the index’s 10 main sectors lower.

The index is up about 3 percent so far this year.

“The market has had a nice run so it didn’t take very much to have a setback here,” said Irwin Michael, portfolio manager at ABC Funds.

“The Chinese numbers that came out were not totally unexpected. We knew things just can’t keep on growing at 10 and 11 percent,” he said. “Europe is no surprise. If they are not in recession they will be there shortly.”

The blue-chip SoS&P/TSX 60 ended down 3.37 points, or 0.48 percent, at 705.52.

“The overseas China and euro zone PMIs have been a major driver with the disappointing contracting readings. That’s overshadowed another drop in U.S. jobless claims,” said Fergal Smith, managing market strategist at Action Economics.

Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans claiming new unemployment benefits dropped to a four-year low last week, the latest evidence the U.S. labor market is gaining traction.

In company news, shares of Lululemon Athletica Inc. LLL.TO rose 3.3 percent to C$75.95 after the yoga-wear retailer said fourth-quarter profits rose smartly and sales in established stores jumped 26 percent. But it offered a disappointing full-year profit outlook and said its margins narrowed.

Air Canada ACb.TO shares fell 3.5 percent at 82 Canadian cents a day after Quebec’s government said it was considering taking legal action against both Air Canada and the federal government to keep operations going at the Montreal facility that services the airline’s planes.

Editing by Leslie Adler

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