February 12, 2015 / 12:28 PM / 4 years ago

TSX shrugs off insurer gloom; banks and energy lead

TORONTO (Reuters) - Big insurers weighed on Canada’s main stock index on Thursday, but major banks and blue-chip energy companies pushed the market higher as crude oil prices rallied.

A man walks past an old Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) sign in Toronto, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Shares in Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) and Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) slipped after the insurers reported disappointing quarterly results. Manulife was off 2.3 percent at C$21.33 while smaller rival Sunlife fell 6.5 percent to C$39.23.

Investors also sold off Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO), which saw its stock drop 11.5 percent to C$2.69, after the airplane maker reported a loss, replaced its chief executive, suspended dividends, sought to raise $2 billion, and revealed more cost overruns in a key project.

Yet the index was kept in the black in part by the sector that has most heavily weighed in recent months: energy.

Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) gained 1.6 percent to C$39.10, and natural gas company Keyera Corp (KEY.TO) jumped 10 percent to C$82.22 after splitting its stock and raising its dividend.

Oil prices remained choppy, jumping more than 3 percent and extending their gains from the previous session. [O/R]

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended the day up 77.02 points, or 0.51 percent, at 15,228.52.

But for one portfolio manager, the energy bump is not to be trusted. The sector is overrun with speculators with three-hour attention spans and best avoided by longer-term investors, he said.

“The fundamentals suck at the moment,” said David Baskin, portfolio manager and president of Baskin Financial Services. “There’s a lot of energy companies that can’t pay their dividend and their capex at this level of oil prices.”

The choice of which to cut is decisive: less spending means lower production two years out, lower dividends mean income investors depart, he added.

Illustrating his point, Cenovus Energy Inc (CVE.TO) said it will cut jobs and may slash its budget if oil prices keep falling. Its shares fell marginally.

The benchmark TSX has reflected the oil price volatility. The index has been having big swings in sentiment but is up about 3.3 percent so far this year.

“We may see more volatility (in the energy sector) going forward, given that we’re seeing such dramatic volatility in the underlying commodity price,” said Tim Caulfield, director of equity research at Franklin Bissett Investment Management, a unit of Franklin Templeton Investments.

“If share prices have overreacted, taking the long-term view, that can create an interesting buying opportunity,” he said.

Additional reporting by John Tilak; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Tom Brown

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