TSX suffers lowest close in six weeks as energy, banks fall

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s benchmark stock index on Friday closed at its lowest in six weeks on declines in energy and banking shares, pressured by lower oil prices and an uncertain U.S. interest rate and political environment.

A TMX Group sign, the company that runs the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), is seen in Toronto, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 74.17 points, or 0.51 percent, at 14,509.25, while on Wall Street, the S&P 500 .SPX ended lower for the ninth straight session, unnerved by a recent tightening in the U.S. presidential election race.

“The whole political environment is taking a lot of the excitement out of the market,” said Susan Da Sie, senior portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management, adding that the overhang could continue even after Tuesday’s U.S. elections.

For the week, the TSX fell 1.9 percent, the largest one-week decline since February.

The uncertain U.S. interest rate outlook and recent sharp drop in oil prices have also weighed on the market, Da Sie said.

U.S. employers maintained a strong pace of hiring in October and boosted wages for workers, which could effectively seal the case for a December rate increase from the Federal Reserve.

Oil futures fell by their biggest weekly percentage decline since January of around 9 percent as signs of tensions resurfaced between Saudi Arabia and Iran that could scupper a key supply cut pact. U.S. crude oil futures CLc1 settled 59 cents lower at $44.07 a barrel. [O/R]

The energy group fell nearly 1 percent, with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd CNQ.TO down 2 percent to C$40.12. The oil sands crude producer was set to become the first to restart a deferred major project since the global oil price slump began in 2014.

The most influential weights also included several big banks, with Toronto-Dominion Bank TD.TO down 1.1 percent to C$59.71 and Royal Bank of Canada RY.TO off 0.8 percent to C$82.06.

The financials group slipped 0.6 percent, while nine of the index’s 10 main groups ended lower.

With traditional valuation measures such as the price-earnings ratio looking expensive, further growth in earnings is needed to support higher levels for the index, Da Sie said.

The Canadian economy unexpectedly added tens of thousands of jobs for a second straight month in October which might trim the chance of a rate cut from the Bank of Canada, analysts said.

Sierra Wireless Inc SW.TO jumped 14.6 percent to C$19.23 and Secure Energy Services Inc SES.TO gained 9.4 percent to C$8.63 after each reported quarterly earnings.

Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and James Dalgleish