TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's benchmark stock index edged higher on Tuesday as higher gold prices supported mining stocks, while news of an acquisition boosted shares of the country's largest pipeline company.
The small gain for the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE follows a 1.1 percent advance last week, the biggest weekly gain since mid-July. The index was closed on Monday for the Labor Day holiday.
"The market looks like it might be taking its cue from a weak ISM (services sector) number," said Manash Goswami, portfolio manager at First Asset Investment Management Inc.
U.S. services sector activity slowed to a 6-1/2-year low in August, pointing to slowing economic growth that further diminished prospects for an interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve this month.
The lowered chances of a Fed hike weighed on the U.S. dollar .DXY, triggering a 1.7 percent jump in spot gold XAU= prices. [GOL/]
Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) rose 3.7 percent to C$24.45, while the materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 2.3 percent.
Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) gained 3.9 percent to C$55.30 after saying it would buy Spectra Energy Corp SE.N in an all-stock deal valued at about C$37 billion to create the largest North American energy infrastructure company.
Energy stocks were little changed overall, while U.S. crude oil futures CLc1 settled up 39 cents at $44.83 a barrel despite skepticism that a meeting of major oil producers this month will result in an output freeze. [O/R]
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 17.29 points, or 0.12 percent, at 14,812.99. Only three of the index's 10 main industry groups were higher.
Defensive, higher-yielding sectors, which are not cheap but continue to perform, are preferred in a "lower for longer" interest rate environment, Goswami said.
Utilities rose 0.2 percent, while the healthcare group advanced 0.5 percent.
Financials, which benefit from improved margins on consumer loans as economic activity increases and interest rates rise, were a drag on the market, dipping 0.2 percent.
Brookfield Asset Management Inc (BAMa.TO) was down 1.5 percent at C$43.97.
Industrials declined 0.8 percent, including losses for railroad stocks.
Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO) tumbled 4.3 percent to C$2.03 after the company more than halved its CSeries aircraft delivery forecast for the year.
Reporting by Fergal Smith; editing by James Dalgleish, G Crosse