TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian stocks ended little changed on Wednesday as fears of oil supply disruptions and some encouraging U.S. economic data boosted energy issues, but the gains were limited by reports that Greece’s debt bailout may be delayed.
Oil and gas producers kept Toronto’s main index in positive territory, rising 0.5 percent after Brent crude hit a six-month high near $120 a barrel on concern about reduced supplies from Iran, other Middle East producers and Africa.
Talisman Energy TLM.TO led the sector’s gains, jumping nearly 5 percent to C$13.13 after the independent oil explorer said it would cut spending in its largest shale gas production zone to cope with depressed natural gas prices.
Gainers were tempered by Cenovus Energy Inc (CVE.TO), whose shares slipped 1.3 percent to C$38.08 after its fourth quarter profit failed to match expectations and it again extended the search of a joint-venture partner for a northern Alberta oil sand project.
Overall gains were sparse as doubts re-emerged about Greece’s long-awaited second bailout after a report that euro zone officials were considering delaying the rescue package until after Greece holds elections in April. <MKTS/GLOB>
The new doubts offset better than expected GDP data from Germany and France and comments by China’s central bank governor that the world’s No. 2 economy would play a bigger role in solving Europe’s debt problems.
“If they can just improve it from being a crisis situation to a chronic condition, that would be tremendous progress,” said Stephen Wood, chief investment strategist for North America at Russell Investments in New York.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up just 7.56 points, or 0.1 percent, at 12,362.03 in thin trade.
Despite the modest gain, six of the TSX’s 10 main sectors were lower. The influential materials and financial sectors were flat as miners and banks were hit by investor uncertainty over the euro zone’s debt crisis.
Miner Teck Resources TCKb.TO skidded 1.3 percent to C$38.48, as copper slid for a fourth consecutive session.
Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) slipped 0.3 percent to C$53.46.
The Greek drama was enough to keep many nervous investors on the sidelines as any delay would endanger Athens’ ability to finance 14.5 billion euros ($19 billion) in bond redemptions due next month.
“The volumes are speaking to the uncertainties that are out there,” said Paul Hand, managing director at RBC Capital Markets. “It looks like we’re avoiding the doomsday scenarios at the moment, but there’s still not a lot of enthusiasm.”
Offering some support to the market was a key gauge of U.S. manufacturing, which showed activity in New York state picked up in February to its highest level in more than 1-1/2 years.
“There’s a slight, but measurable upward bias in the new data,” said Wood.