TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index dropped on Friday with financial and telecoms shares leading the fall as worries about the Syrian conflict hit sentiment and disappointing U.S. jobs data signaled an uneven recovery in the world’s biggest economy.
The sluggish U.S. data did lessen fears of an immediate pullback in stimulus measures by the U.S. central bank. That lifted the price of bullion, which is seen as a safe-haven trade during tough economic times, and gold-mining stocks rose as a result.
Friday’s fall followed three straight sessions of gains and the Toronto stock market’s benchmark index recorded a weekly gain of 1.3 percent.
Market caution over Syria persisted as U.S. President Barack Obama resisted pressure to let go of plans for air strikes against Syria and enlisted the support of 10 fellow leaders for a “strong” response to a chemical weapons attack.
U.S. jobs growth missed expectations in August, while the unemployment rate hit a 4-1/2-year low - but that was because more Americans gave up the search for work - complicating the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision on whether to begin trimming its bond-buying program later this month.
“It shows the economy has got a pulse, but it’s a very feeble pulse,” John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada, said of the jobs report.
Investors have been dissecting every piece of U.S. economic data to try to determine when the Fed will begin dialing back its asset purchases. The Fed meets later in the month to discuss monetary policy.
“The advocates of a more accommodating policy are going to have more ammunition going into the meeting this month, to potentially postpone the timing of the taper,” said Stephen Wood, chief market strategist, North America, at Russell Investments.
“The certainty the market had about the September time frame for taper became less certain,” he added.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 24.14 points, or 0.19 percent, at 12,820.92.
Eight of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red.
Financials, the index’s most heavily weighted sector, slipped 0.2 percent. Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) lost 0.5 percent to C$91.16 and had the biggest negative influence on the index. Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO) gave back almost 1 percent to C$17.70.
Telecom stocks dropped 1.1 percent, with Telus Corp (T.TO) falling 1.8 percent to C$33.31.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc VRX.TO dropped 0.5 percent to C$104.36, taking the healthcare sector down 0.4 percent.
The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, advanced 0.6 percent, with a 1.2 percent rise in the bullion price boosting gold producers. Among them, Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) added 0.2 percent to C$30.55.
Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Galloway