* Early near-2 percent gain fizzles
* Index reaches highest since Oct 14 before retreat
* Financials lower as two insurers report quarterly loss (Adds details)
TORONTO, May 7 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index was little changed on Thursday, as weaker-than-expected results in the insurance sector pulled financial shares lower, offsetting a firmer tone in commodity prices.
The index shot out of the gate at the open, rising close to 2 percent, but gains faded quickly and the index moved in and out of negative territory.
The price of oil slipped below $58 a barrel, off a fresh 2009 high, but was still firm as a surge in global stock markets raised expectations of economic improvement and a subsequent increase in demand for oil products. [ID:nSP407747]
The energy group was up 0.55 percent after accelerating close to a 4 percent gain at the open.
The materials sector, home to gold companies, was off 0.1 percent. The firmer price of the yellow metal, which rose sharply as a break through the previous day’s high sparked technical buying, limited the fall in the materials group. [ID:nL7976027]
Gainers moving the overall index were from the commodity-related sectors, which make up about 40 percent of the index’s weighting. Goldcorp G.TO rose 4.2 percent to C$36.95, while EnCana ECA.TO advanced 0.49 percent to C$61.50. Suncor was up 1.5 percent at C$35.70.
“The momentum in the short-term is certainly to the upside...We will get some meaningful pullback in the not-too-distant future, in the next several days, several weeks,” said Peter Chandler, senior vice-president at Canaccord Capital in Waterloo, Ontario.
At 11:00 a.m. (1500 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 24.17 points, or 0.24 percent, at 10,167.60. It had risen 10,340.78 earlier, its highest level since October 14, and fallen as low as 10,072.46.
Six of the index’s 10 sectors were higher. The declining sectors included the financial group, another influential sector that makes up a third of the index weighting.
Financials were pulled lower by insurers Manulife Financial and Sun Life, which both reported quarterly losses. Manulife MFC.TO was the leading issue moving the overall index lower, down 2.55 percent at C$22.16. [ID:nN07338021]
Sun Life SLF.TO fell 2.8 percent to C$29.12. [ID:nBNG474786]
Meanwhile, investors were also waiting for the results of “stress tests” of major U.S. banks due at 5 p.m. (2100 GMT). Leaked reports show that about half will not need new capital. [ID:nL776802]
$1=$1.17 Canadian Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson