December 21, 2015 / 3:09 PM / in 2 years

TSX little changed as energy drag offsets gold producers

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

TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index was little changed on Monday as energy stocks gave up early gains but investors scooped up shares in safe-haven sectors such as consumer staples and healthcare, while gold producers climbed.

Transcanada Corp (TRP.TO) was among the day’s biggest drags, giving up 2.3 percent at C$44.67. Among resource companies that were lower, Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) fell 1.2 percent to C$28.8.

After gaining more than 1 percent earlier in the day, the energy sector as a whole retreated 0.7 percent. U.S. crude prices stabilized but Brent crude hit an 11-year low. [O/R]

“The energy group is still being held hostage by the daily gyrations in crude prices, which are currently approaching the lows of 2008,” said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver.

Agricultural shares weighed, with Potash Corp (POT.TO) down 1.6 percent at C$23.83 and Agrium Inc (AGU.TO) declining 3.6 percent to C$124.72. Several analysts have recently downgraded the stocks amid a weak pricing environment.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended up 10.08 points, or 0.08 percent, to 13,034.38. Eight of the index’s 10 main groups rose.

The most influential movers on the index to the upside included some of its biggest banks, with Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) rising 0.4 percent to C$74.55 and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) advancing 0.2 percent to C$54.8.

The overall financial group added 0.3 percent, while the consumer staples sector climbed 0.7 percent and the healthcare group gained 1.3 percent.

Gold producers also did well as gold prices gained. Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) jumped 3.5 percent to C$10.44, while Goldcorp (G.TO) climbed 2.0 percent to C$16.51.

“The TSX seems to be following last year’s trading pattern, when we saw a strong surge in the second half of December,” said Picardo. “While it may be too optimistic to expect a repeat of that performance, tax-loss selling pressure has abated, and we are seeing some interest in commodity producers, especially gold miners.”

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the TSX by 122 to 113, for a 1.08-to-1 ratio on the upside.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp and Leah Schnurr; Editing by Diane Craft

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