* TSX down 0.54 percent at 13,537.34
* Energy selloff leads decline
* Index manages to pare earlier steep losses (Adds details)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, May 5 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index fell for a fourth straight day on Thursday morning, dragged lower by plunging commodity prices.
Sustained downward pressure on the resource-heavy TSX has come mostly from the energy sector, which has fallen some 5 percent so far this week. The price of U.S. oil, down about $4.50 to $104.70 a barrel, has fallen about 7 percent in the same time frame. [O/R]
The energy group dropped more than 1 percent on Thursday, led by weakness in some of the sector’s biggest constituents, such as Suncor Energy (SU.TO), Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) and Nexen Inc NXY.TO.
Suncor fell 1.3 percent to C$41.25, while Canadian Natural was off 1.75 percent at C$41.60. Nexen lost 2.5 percent to C$24.15.
At 10:50 a.m. (1450 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 73.98 points, or 0.54 percent, at 13,537.34. Seven of its 10 main sectors were lower, also dragged down by a 0.7 percent fall in the materials group.
The index dropped more than 1 percent early in the session to hit its lowest level in seven weeks.
“Under the present circumstances, there’s no doubt in my mind that it really has been fostered by a reversal in the commodity sector,” said Fred Ketchen, director of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod, noting that margin-selling was probably responsible for some of extended declines.
“One feeds upon the other. I’m not sure that we’re finished yet.”
Still, Ketchen was optimistic that stocks would return to focusing on corporate performance. “As earnings continue to come out, that’s going to be the thing that is going to lead me to decide ‘Well, okay, it’s worth taking a little bit of step into the market’.”
Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) dropped 1.5 percent to C$30.27, despite reporting better than expected results after markets closed on Wednesday. But Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) edged up 0.12 percent to C$16.84 after reporting a slip in quarterly profit and revenue on Thursday. [ID:nN05267082] [ID:nN04199310]
Telecoms company Telus Corp (T.TO) reported a higher quarterly profit that beat market estimates, sending its shares up 0.5 percent to C$50.25.
Weak U.S. labor data also renewed concern about consumer demand and the strength of the economic recovery, adding pressure on a market that has had few things to cheer about this week.
Initial U.S. jobless claims rose to an eight-month high last week, and productivity growth slowed in the first quarter. [ID:nN05259672] (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson)