TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index closed near a two-week low on Thursday as resource stocks slid along with commodity prices on investor hesitation ahead of Friday's key U.S. jobs report.
The index's hefty energy group fell nearly 1.2 percent after U.S. crude prices softened. Oil producer Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO) was the biggest drag on the index, falling 3.4 percent, to C$30.12. <O/R>
"The oil differentials between heavy Alberta crude and global (oil) markets is in the $35-plus area," said John Tsagarelis, a managing director and senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management. "So CNQ not being able to get global prices for their crude is hurting them quite a bit today."
Fast-growing output from vast oil sands of northern Alberta and limited pipeline capacity to move it to markets in the United States have weighed on the price of Canadian crude.
Gold prices fell roughly 1 percent, which also weighed on the miner-heavy Toronto index. <GOL/>
"The nature of resources is they respond to commodity prices both current and anticipated. They tend to be more volatile reflecting that," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.
The market was awaiting U.S. payrolls data on Friday for a take on the health of the world's biggest economy. Employers are forecast to have added 160,000 jobs in January after a rise of 155,000 in December.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed 109.20 points, or 0.85 percent, lower at C$12,685.24. The stock hit a session low of 12,682.69, its weakest level since January 18.
Nine of the index's 10 key sectors on the index were in the red.
Potash Corp (POT.TO), the world's biggest fertilizer company, was another heavyweight decliner. It reported a surprisingly large drop in fourth-quarter profit and gave a first-quarter outlook below Wall Street's forecast. The stock declined 1.9 percent to C$42.37.
Research In Motion Ltd RIM.TO shares fell 6.8 percent to C$12.92, a day after the BlackBerry maker launched its new line of phones. A late release of the phones in the U.S. market disappointed analysts. <ID:L1N0B07N4>
Additional reporting by John Tilak; Editing by Peter Galloway