May 5, 2008 / 2:45 PM / in 10 years

Toronto stocks flat, commodities stave off decline

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TORONTO, May 5 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock market index retreated from session highs and were little changed in early trading on Monday, firming a tad as buoyant commodity prices offset a general malaise in the marketplace.

By midmorning, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up just 3.31 points at 14,283.59 after touching a high of 14,365.77 earlier in the session.

Although only three of the TSX index’s 10 main groups were higher, a 1.5 percent boost from the materials group and a 1.5 percent rise in the influential energy group were enough to offset weakness in the other areas.

“It really is a commodities-related day again,” said Michael Sprung, president at Sprung and Co Investment Counsel. “The commodities mostly look positive and that is what is driving our market.”

Gold shares were boosted by a rise in the precious metal which firmed to $865.25 an ounce following a drop to four-month lows last week.

Barrick Gold (ABX.TO), the world’s biggest producer, rose 75 Canadian cents to C$39.06 and Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd (AEM.TO) rose 47 Canadian cents to C$64.35.

Goldcorp (G.TO) rose only 3 Canadian cents to C$36.84, as investors appeared to shrug off a huge jump in its first-quarter results earlier on Monday.

Among materials issues, market leader Potash Corp (POT.TO) rose 32 Canadian cents to C$191.13 and Agrium Inc (AGU.TO) rose 32 Canadian cents to C$84.32.

Agrium said on Monday it completed its offer for U.S. agricultural retailer UAP Holding Corp UAPH.O and a merger of the two companies should occur within a few days.

Energy shares gained ground on the back of a 2.3 percent jump in the price of U.S. crude oil. Suncor Energy (SU.TO) added C$2.85 to C$116.50.

Financial shares fell 1.5 percent and industrial issues dropped 1 percent, overshadowing the gains.

Financial shares were hurt by weekend comments from influential investor Warren Buffet who said the U.S. has already slipped into a recession.

Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) was down C$1.20 at C$75.10 and Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) slipped 97 Canadian cents to C$39.32.

Industrial shares were led lower by railway companies as rising fuel prices have raised operating costs for these firms.

Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO) slipped C$1.44 to C$54.10 and Canadian Pacific Railway (CP.TO) fell 98 Canadian cents to C$73.20. ($1=$1.02 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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