June 9, 2008 / 9:16 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 3-Toronto stocks inch lower amid economic unease

(Adds details, quotes)

* Index ends little changed in choppy session

* Persistent concerns over high price of oil weigh

* Potash Corp of Saskatchewan hits record high

By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO, June 9 (Reuters) - An early advance on the Toronto Stock Exchange fizzled out on Monday, leaving the main index little changed as energy shares cut gains, and worries over consumer spending and the global economy weighed.

Investor jitters were carried over from Friday when the price of oil saw an unprecedented jump of more than $10. A retreat by crude on Monday helped ease price concerns somewhat, but investors remained wary of more volatility.

“At the moment, there is some optimism that it has eased off for the day, but oil is still one of those things that can jump at any given point in time without any notice whatsoever,” said Adrian Mastracci, portfolio manager and president at KCM Wealth Management Inc. in Vancouver.

Oil for July delivery fell $4.19, or 3 percent, to $134.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday. Prices have more than doubled over the past 12 months.

The heavyweight energy sector moved against the price of oil for most of the day and finished up 0.2 percent. The sector was mixed, with Canadian Oil Sands Trust COS_u.TO down C$1.54, or 3 percent, at C$50.75, and Suncor Energy (SU.TO) gaining 54 Canadian cents, or 0.8 percent, to C$70.00.

In a zig-zag session, in which the benchmark climbed more than 100 points in the morning, the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 8.79 points, or 0.06 percent, at 14,960.76. All but three of its 10 main sectors were lower.

On the upside, fertilizer company Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO galloped to a record high after Goldman Sachs said prices for potash and phosphate should continue to climb. Potash shares climbed as high as C$232.60 before easing to close up C$5.94, or 2.7 percent, at C$226.74.

Agrium AGU.TO moved up C$2.45, or 2.6 percent, to C$96.65 along with Potash, as the fertilizer firms helped the materials sector gain 0.6 percent.

Consumer stocks declined amid concern over the effect of oil prices on the consumer appetite for spending. The consumer discretionary and staples sectors were each down 0.8 percent respectively.

Grocer Loblaw (L.TO) closed down 80 Canadian cents, or 2.4 percent, at C$33.22, and restaurant chain Tim Hortons THI.TO was off 63 Canadian cents, or 2 percent, to C$31.51.

South of the border, Lehman Brothers LEH.N added to uncertainty over the financial sector as the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank raised $6 billion of capital after it said it expects to post a $2.8 billion quarterly loss from trades and hedges gone sour.

Analysts said the size of the issue of shares and convertible securities renewed worries over the health of financial markets and rattled investor nerves.

“They’re under the gun to raise equity, so that’s a bit of a negative sign for the market,” said Sal Masionis, stockbroker at Brant Securities.

On Bay Street, financials slipped 0.3 percent, with National Bank of Canada (NA.TO) down 63 Canadian cents, or 1.2 percent, at C$53.44, and Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) off 28 Canadian cents, or 0.6 percent, at C$49.40.

Market volume was 327 million shares worth C$6.3 billion. Decliners outpaced advancers 939 to 651. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed up 0.58 point, or 0.06 percent, at 894.27.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI finished up after Friday’s dive of nearly 400 points, as sales numbers for McDonald’s Corp (MCD.N) jumped more than forecast. The Dow closed up 70.51 points, or 0.58 percent, at 12,280.32.

The Nasdaq composite index .IXIC was off 15.10 points, or 0.61 percent, at 2,459.46, weighed down by Apple Inc. (AAPL.O), which slid 2.2 percent to $181.61 following the unveiling of its new iPhone. (Editing by Rob Wilson) ($1=$1.02 Canadian)

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