TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index fell to its lowest close since mid-January on Friday as disappointing domestic retail sales data added to the market’s anxiety over the Greek debt crisis.
With crude and base metals prices slumping, the index’s heavily weighted energy and materials sectors led a broad decline, with Canada’s big banks and Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX.TO) also down.
Subodh Kumar, chief investment strategist at Subodh Kumar & Associates, said crude prices likely will not rise much as the war for market share between the OPEC producers group and the U.S. fracking industry continues.
He said the oil industry is likely to suffer through a shakeout similar to the one that has already hit gold miners, and that golds may now be a better bet. “The oil industry is in the throes of restructuring that happened later than gold,” Kumar said.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE dropped 117.52 points, or 0.80 percent, on Friday to end at 14,653.12. It fell 0.6 percent on the week.
Energy stocks slid 1.3 percent, with Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) down 2 percent at C$34.50.
Gold prices were near a three-week high, but gold miners didn’t benefit. Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) fell 2.9 percent to C$20.12 and Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) was off 1.6 percent at C$14.08. [O/R] The broader materials sector fell 2 percent.
After two months of gains, retail sales slipped 0.1 percent in April from March as consumers spent less on food and electronics. Economists had expected a 0.7 percent rise.
The Greek crisis continued to dog the market, with investors hoping an emergency meeting of euro zone leaders next week will prevent Greece from defaulting on its debt at the end of the month.
“Everybody is primed for Greece,” said Rick Hutcheon, president and chief operating officer at RKH Investments.
“The markets hate uncertainty. It really boils down to that. This is unknown, the impact, the implications ... who knows what the short-term dislocations will be?”
The most heavily weighted decliner on the index was Valeant, off 1.8 percent at C$280.81, followed by Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), which fell 1.3 percent to C$76.82, and Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO), which was down 1.2 percent at C$64.36.
Five of the seven biggest drags on the TSX were from the financial group, which retreated 1 percent.
“Financials are getting hurt more than anybody today and I think that’s because of the insecurities or uncertainties that surround the (Greece) outcome,” Hutcheon said.
Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Peter Galloway