TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index capped a five-day losing streak by slumping to its lowest in more than 3-1/2 months on Friday, led by declines in the financial sector, as gloomy Canadian and U.S. jobs data suggested the North American economy could be losing steam.
The economic uncertainty weighed on oil prices, which fell to a five-month low, but a rising bullion price took gold shares higher.
The benchmark Canadian index slipped 3.3 percent on the week, recording its biggest weekly fall in about 10 months. The week’s losses have erased all the gains the index made in 2013.
March data showed that American employers hired at the slowest pace in nine months and Canada posted the worst monthly jobs loss in more than four years.
“The market was somewhat ahead of itself on expectations it was going to be full steam ahead,” said Gavin Graham, president at Graham Investment Strategy. “We’ve been reminded that there will be some bumps in the road.”
“You’re going to get months when job gains are not as high as expected or even have a reversal,” he added.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 31.20 points, or 0.25 percent, at 12,331.85, after reaching 12,244.23, its lowest point since December 17, 2012. On Wednesday, the index had its biggest one-day percentage decline in more than nine months.
The latest numbers followed weak economic data throughout the week, unnerving investors and casting doubts about a smooth recovery.
“It’s a very reluctant, obstinate and grinding recovery. But it’s a recovery,” said Stephen Wood, chief market strategist, North America, at Russell Investments in New York.
“We’ve been anticipating that it would not be a smooth, uninterrupted ride up,” he added. “There will be a volatile path to positive returns for 2013.”
The TSX has had an uneven rally since November. The market climbed almost 10 percent from a low in November to a peak on March 12, before easing.
Some analysts said the market prices have gotten further than fundamentals.
Seven of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red.
Financials, the index’s weightiest sector, were the biggest negative influence, giving back 1 percent. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) dropped 1.3 percent to C$59.62.
But the materials sector, which includes mining stocks, rose and helped stem the losses.
The price of gold received a boost because the bad economic news created interest in safe-haven assets. Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) gained 1.2 percent to C$32.33. <GOL/>
Energy shares also made gains, with Encana Corp (ECA.TO) up 3.1 percent to C$19.11.
In company news, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, one of the world’s largest pension funds, said it has voted to support Agrium Inc’s AGU.TO board nominees ahead of a shareholder meeting next week. Agrium shares were down 0.3 percent.
Editing by Andrew Hay