TSX ends nearly unchanged as gold stocks rise, financials fall

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index ended nearly unchanged on Thursday as gains for gold stocks offset losses for financials, while investors grappled with impact of a massive wildfire that has shut some production in the country’s oil sands region.

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

The index has rebounded 18 percent from an almost 3-1/2-year low in January, though it has been unable to climb back above 14,000.

After such a sharp rally “we did need a little bit of consolidation,” said John Kinsey, a portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed up 0.01 points, or 0.00 percent, to 13,632.01. Just four of the index’s 10 main groups ended higher.

A good year for the U.S. economy and a bottom having been hit for commodity markets can help support the index, said Kinsey.

The wildfire has grown to five times its initial size, while at least 640,000 barrels per day of crude output is offline, according to Reuters calculations, roughly 16 percent of Canada’s crude production.

Suncor Energy Inc, which has cut production due to the wildfire, fell nearly 3 percent to C$33.16, while Enbridge Inc was down 1.2 percent at C$50.32.

The overall energy group ended nearly unchanged as higher oil prices tempered losses.

U.S. crude prices settled at C$44.32 a barrel, up 1.23 percent on curbed output from Canada.

National Bank of Canada estimated that it would set aside C$250 million before taxes in the quarter ended April to cover bad loans to the oil and gas industry. Its shares fell 0.8 percent to C$42.20.

Bank of Nova Scotia fell 1.1 percent to C$61.90, while the overall financials group declined 0.3 percent.

Fertilizer companies also dragged. Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc fell 3.9 percent to C$20.60 and Agrium Inc was down 2.7 percent at $107.87.

Gold stocks rallied even as gold fell for the fourth straight day.

Franco Nevada Corp rose 4.9 percent to C$87.59, while Barrick Gold Corp was up 2.3 percent at C$23.00.

Magna International Inc rose 1.5 percent to C$51.98. The auto parts maker reported a higher-than-expected first-quarter profit and raised its full-year sales forecast for a second time, boosted by strong vehicle sales in North America and Europe.

Shares of Manulife Financial Corp rose 1.1 percent to C$18.26. Canada’s biggest life insurer reported a 45 percent jump in first-quarter earnings, boosted by strong insurance sales in Asia and gains from interest rate movements.

Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by James Dalgleish and Diane Craft