*TSX down 79.38 points at 14,012.97
*Energy, materials sectors weaker as financials gain
*Oil, gold prices drop but copper ends higher (Updates to close, adds details, quotes)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, March 8 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index pulled back for a second day on Tuesday and closed at its lowest level in more than a week as oil companies and gold miners succumbed to softer commodity prices though strength in financial shares helped limit the losses.
The index’s weighty energy and materials sectors were both down sharply, off 2.6 percent and 1 percent respectively.
Oil prices slipped after after Kuwait’s oil minister said OPEC was considering boosting production for the first time in more than two years, soothing investors’ anxiety over spreading civil unrest in Libya and the Middle East. [O/R]
Easing crude prices — with U.S. futures settling around $105 and Brent near $113 — also tarnished the safe-haven allure of gold. U.S. gold futures for April GCJ1 fell below $1,430 an ounce after hitting a record high of $1,445.70 on Monday. Copper prices, however, bounced back from a two-week low. [GOL/]
Among the heaviest decliners, Suncor Energy (SU.TO) plunged 4.2 percent to C$43.67, Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), dropped 3.4 percent to C$46.46, while Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) fell 1.4 percent to C$50.80.
“Certainly last week was a very strong week for Canadian equities, so today is a continuation of the pullback we saw yesterday,” said Jason Hornett, vice-president and fund manager at Bissett Investment Management in Calgary.
“Investors in Canada are probably repositioning their portfolios ... lowering their risk as we are seeing some strength in the consumer staples and other defensive groups,” he added, noting a better performance for utilities and pipeline companies.
Fertilizer producers were also big laggards as violent clashes in Libya and inflated oil prices continue to weigh on the outlook for a global economic recovery. Potash Corp POT.TO, the world’s largest fertilizer maker, extended its recent losses, falling 1.4 percent to C$56.67.
Hornett said investors were mostly taking profits in that sector given its recent robust performance, noting the underlying commodity prices were still quite strong.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended down 79.38 points, or 0.56 percent, at 14,012.97, following Monday’s 160-point dive. It was the lowest close since Feb. 24.
Financials were up 0.5 percent as impressive quarterly bank earnings continued to lend support.
Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) skidded 1.7 percent to C$59.15, however, despite reporting an 18 percent increase in quarterly profit and raising its dividend. Expectations for its results were high due to strong earnings at other Canadian banks. [ID:nN07110134]
($1=$0.97 Canadian) (Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Peter Galloway)