April 5, 2012 / 1:07 AM / in 6 years

TSX hits three-month low as Europe fears flare up

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index fell for a third straight day on Thursday, hitting its lowest in more than three months as European debt crisis worries crimped appetite for riskier assets, although impressive Canadian and U.S. jobs data provided some support.

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

Eight of the 10 sectors were weaker, led by the three heavyweight groups, materials, energy and financials.

Among the most influential decliners, Suncor Energy dropped 2.6 percent to C$30.45, Canadian Natural Resources lost 2.9 percent to C$31.77 and Barrick Gold retreated 1.6 percent to C$40.51.

“It’s the same story we had since the beginning of the week in terms of the European overhang,” said Serge Pepin, head of investments, BMO Investments Inc. “That’s what is weighing on sentiment.”

A poor Spanish debt auction on Wednesday added to worries that the impact of the European Central Bank’s one trillion euro injection of cheap three-year funds into the banking system may be coming to an abrupt halt, and dragged euro zone bond yields higher.

“Everybody is back on this European sovereign debt thing again and it’s just something that doesn’t want to go away, that’s hurting the banks and everything is getting beaten up today,” said John Kinsey, portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities.

“Golds aren’t participating even though the metal itself is trying to rally a little bit here.”

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed down 75.55 points, or 0.62 percent, to 12,103.11. It hit an intraday low of 12,051.20, its softest level since January 3 before recovering somewhat by the end of the session. The index ended the week 2.3 percent lower. Canadian markets are closed on Friday for the Good Friday holiday and volume is expected to be light on Easter Monday.

Suncor, the heaviest drag, was particularly hurt by news that the province of Newfoundland’s oil regulator laid three charges against the oil company, related to a spill of synthetic drilling fluids in 2011 from a Suncor rig operating in the East Coast province’s waters.

In general however, oil companies were pressured by softer oil prices, which had tumbled in the previous two sessions.

“The oil companies have just been taking a hard hit here for some time. The price of oil is still above $100 but ... today is just more of the same,” added Kinsey.

On the bright side, Canada’s stagnant job market bounced back in March with a stunning 82,300 net new jobs, the biggest jump since September 2008, while U.S. jobless claims fell to the lowest in nearly four years.

“(Canadian employment data) should have brought a number of smiles to people’s faces but I think it’s just the mood at this point which is ... cautious,” added Pepin.

Editing by James Dalgleish

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