August 7, 2008 / 3:15 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Toronto stocks flat, help up by energy

(Adds details)

*TSX flat but energy sector up as oil rises

*Benchmark index weighed down by financials

*Canadian Natural in focus after quarterly results

TORONTO, Aug 7 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index was slightly higher on Thursday morning, supported by strength in energy issues including Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO), which reported richer-than-expected results.

The key energy sector was up 1.6 percent as the price of oil rose to above $120 a barrel.

Weighing on the market were the financial and consumer discretionary sectors, slipping 1 percent and 1.3 percent respectively.

Choppy early activity, during which the market see-sawed between positive and negative territory, reflects cautiousness in the market, said Levente Mady, broker at MF Global Canada, in Vancouver.

“There’s quite a bit of confusion out there on a day to day basis,” said Mady. “It’s so choppy out there, it’s a struggle to figure out what the next news item will be driving the trading.”

Midmorning, the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 6.11 points at 13,459.62, held by two of its 10 main groups.

On the upside, shares of Canadian Natural rose 3 percent to C$81.73 after the company reported stronger-than-expected operating earnings.

Leading the downside were financial stocks, which slipped as investors took their cue from the United States, where rising weekly jobless claims and results from insurer American International Group Inc (AIG.N) heightened concerns over the health of the U.S. economy.

However, the losses were trimmed by U.S. pending home sales data, which rose unexpectedly.

In Toronto, shares of Manulife Financial Corp (MFC.TO) fell 66 Canadian cents, or 1.8 percent, to C$36.94 after the company said net income dipped in the latest quarter amid weak U.S. and Hong Kong equity markets, a stronger Canadian dollar and tax related provisions. Still, it raised its dividend.

In the materials sphere, shares of Lundin Mining (LUN.TO) slipped 27 Canadian cents, or 5 percent, to C$5.15 after it reported a loss for the second quarter. ($1=$1.05 Canadian) (Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; Editing by Jeffrey Jones)

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