TSX hits two-week low as financials track bond yields lower

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index fell on Thursday to the lowest in more than two weeks as declining bond yields pressured the heavyweight financials group, while resource shares also lost ground.

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

Canada’s 10-year yield dropped below the 1.50 percent threshold for the first time in nearly five months, tracking a drop in U.S. Treasury yields as U.S. President Donald Trump’s favorable view of low interest rates intensified a bond market rally that was underpinned by geopolitical tensions in Syria and North Korea.

News of a massive bomb dropped by the United States in eastern Afghanistan added to uncertainty ahead of a holiday weekend in the United States and Canada.

“Long-term interest rates have moved down, meaning there is a squeeze on margins (of banks) here,” said Ian Nakamoto, equity specialist at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier, a division of Raymond James.

Royal Bank of Canada RY.TO fell 1.5 percent to C$94.67, while the overall financials group lost 1 percent.

Wall Street also closed lower as investors weighed earnings from big U.S. banks, while investors have scaled back hopes for quick implementation of market-friendly policies by the Trump administration, including financial sector deregulation and tax reform.

“I think we got ahead of ourselves thinking things were going to be done quicker,” Nakamoto said.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 112.92 points, or 0.72 percent, at 15,535.48, its lowest close since March 27.

It lost 0.8 percent for the holiday-shortened week.

The energy group declined 1.6 percent even as oil prices ended higher. U.S. crude oil futures settled up 7 cents at $53.18 a barrel.

Nine of the index’s 10 main groups ended lower. The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 0.6 percent.

Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO, the world's largest gold miner, fell 1.6 percent to C$26.42 even as prices for the precious metal posted a five-month high.

Analysts say Barrick must take steps to safeguard investor confidence by ensuring there are no more operating mishaps at its mines after a third incident in 18 months at its big Argentina mine.

Canadian new home prices rose in February, driven by higher costs in Toronto and other cities in Ontario in a report that was likely to underscore concerns that some markets are becoming too hot.

Canadian manufacturing sales declined less than expected in February after three consecutive months of increases.

Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Andrea Ricci