* TSX mostly unchanged, down 4.95 points, at 13,828.69
* Nine of the index’s 10 main groups lower
* Golds offset broad-based weakness (Updates with details, comments)
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, April 14 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index was little changed on Thursday morning as safe-haven buying of gold lifted precious metals miners, offsetting growing concern over the U.S. deficit, Greek debt and Chinese inflation.
Nine of the TSX index’s 10 main groups were lower, with the energy sector leading the way down. It dropped 0.4 percent, pressured as crude prices fell on worries about demand if prices remain at current lofty levels.[O/R]
Among oil and gas shares, Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) slid 1.52 percent to C$42.85, while Talisman Energy TLM.TO fell 0.54 percent to C$22.25.
The index’s materials group gained 0.89 percent due to the advances in gold-mining stocks as gold prices held above $1,455 an ounce. Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) was up 2.31 percent at C$51.31 and Goldcorp (G.TO) climbed 2.15 percent to C$51.74.
U.S. weekly jobless claims came in higher than expected on Thursday, putting pressure on the U.S. dollar, which in turn helped push safe-haven gold higher. [ID:nN14146589]
At 10:48, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 4.95 points at 13,828.69.
U.S. President Barack Obama proposed spending cuts and higher taxes on the rich on Wednesday to slash the U.S. budget deficit by $4 trillion over 12 years. [ID:nN12216395]
“The U.S. dollar is weaker as the debt ceiling discussions and the credit worthiness of Americans is being questioned,” said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada.
“Obama’s speech highlights how problematic their debt problem has become and that’s coming to the fore in the market, and that’s why the dollar is down and the precious metals are up.”
Sentiment was also weighed down by a Statistics Canada report that said that manufacturing sales in February had their biggest drop since August 2009, as auto sales pulled back after a January surge and a strong Canadian dollar continued to hobble exporters. [ID:nN14146333]
Talk that Greece and possibly Ireland may be forced to restructure their ballooning debt and renewed worries over Chinese inflation kept equity markets around the world in negative territory. [MKTS/GLOB] [ID:nLDE73D0XQ]
Chinese inflation in March accelerated to as fast as 5.4 percent from a year earlier, Hong Kong media said on Thursday, reinforcing concerns about the government tightening monetary policy. [ID:nL3E7FE0EO]
The official release of the data is due on Friday.
The concern about China drove down copper prices due to worry about slower growth.
Base-metal miners in Toronto were down 0.77 percent, led by Teck Resources TCKb.TO, which dropped 1.39 percent to C$50.19.
Premier Wen Jiabao has also warned about inflation risks due to soaring global commodity and oil prices, pointing to another interest rate hike.
($1=$0.96 Canadian) (Reporting by Solarina Ho; editing by Peter Galloway)