* TSX falls 241.29 points to 10,066.11
* First four-session skid in more than six months
* Energy shares lead latest selloff (Adds details and comments)
By Frank Pingue
TORONTO, June 17 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index finished lower for a fourth straight session on Wednesday as investors continued to pocket gains after the index staged a remarkable rally from the five-year low it hit in March.
The TSX index fell to its lowest closing level since May 22, with the selloff driven primarily by commodity shares, which were hit by a drop in oil prices and news of a production cut at key fertilizer maker Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO.
Potash Corp was the biggest drag on the index as its shares fell 10.8 percent to C$107.91 after it announced additional potash production cuts late on Tuesday. [ID:nN17337111]
Energy companies were among the loss leaders as the price of oil initially fell further from its 2009 high above $73 a barrel, reached last week. [ID:nSP290171] Crude managed to rebound late in the day, however, settling up 56 cents, or 0.79 percent, at $71.03.
Since the TSX flirted with its eight-month high of 10,726.01 last week, which put it 43 percent above the March low, many investors have opted to take profits.
Market analysts said the pullback was overdue.
“I’ve been increasingly cautious as markets had continued to surge because a lot of this surge is built on the assumption that the economy will recover very strongly in the second half of this year and into next year,” said Elvis Picardo, an analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.
“That may or may not be the case and it makes sense for us to pause here, consolidate and evaluate the near-term and the medium-term outlooks.”
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended down 241.29 points, or 2.34 percent, at 10.066.11. Nine of the TSX’s 10 main sectors finished lower. The consumer staples group advanced 0.13 percent.
Weighty bank issues also factored into the latest TSX selloff as they fell alongside their U.S. peers after Standard and Poor’s cut ratings on 18 U.S. banks. [ID:nLH666378]
Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) dropped 1.4 percent to C$44.03, while Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) slipped 1 percent to C$39.27. The financials index, which accounts for about 33 percent of the TSX, ended down 1.7 percent.
After rallying for four straight weeks, the TSX is now down 5.4 percent this week — a hole that some experts do not expect the index to climb out of in the next two session.
“After the run that stocks had recently they seemed to be priced for perfection, and news that is out of the ordinary can send them lower,” said Picardo.
“When you have stocks set up for perfection it’s a little difficult to make continued gains on the upside and its easier for them to lose steam if there is any adverse news.”
$1=$1.13 Canadian Editing by Rob Wilson