* TSX slips 0.04 percent to 11,521.83
* Bernanke says rates to stay low for long time
* Disappointing corporate earnings drag
* Big banks mixed ahead of results (Adds details)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock market index ended slightly lower on Wednesday as a lower gold price dragged down miners and weaker than expected corporate results weighed.
Disappointing results from several companies, including TransAlta (TA.TO), Finning International (FTT.TO) and Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO) outweighed early benefits from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s commitment to keep U.S. interest rates low.
An unexpected drop in new U.S. home sales also underscored concerns about a shaky U.S. economic recovery, which helped to pull down the price of gold below $1,100 an ounce. Oil, however, was up on the day, above $80 a barrel, but energy shares stayed negative. [GOL/] [O/R]
Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) led all heavyweight decliners, falling 1.68 percent to C$38.71, while fertilizer producer Potash Corp POT.TO fell 1.86 percent to C$114.20.
The resource-laden Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 4.88 points, or 0.04 percent, at 11,521.83, its third straight session lower.
U.S. stocks, meanwhile, rose sharply as investors welcomed the Fed’s promise of more cheap money. [.DJI] [.N]
“We’ve been unable to follow the trend south of the border. The U.S. markets have had a pretty strong day but not so much in Canada,” said Elvis Picardo, analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.
“Most of the downdraft is coming from the materials group.”
Earlier, Bernanke told a House financial services panel that a weak job market and low inflation would likely let the U.S. central bank keep interest rates low for a long time. He testifies before the Senate banking committee on Thursday. [ID:nN23153536]
“The market is more than anything hung up on what’s going to happen with interest rates and what that does to the economy, what that does to the fragile consumer,” said Peter Chandler, senior vice-president at Canaccord Wealth Management.
TransAlta fell 1.9 percent to C$23.21 after Canada’s biggest publicly owned electricity producer said its profit fell 16 percent. [ID:nN24183720]
Finning drooped 3.27 percent to C$17.46 after the world’s largest Caterpillar (CAT.N) equipment dealer returned to profit, but revenue sagged. [ID:nN23109078]
Thomson Reuters tumbled 1.83 percent to C$36.38 as the news and information provider reported a lower quarterly profit and signaled that financial customer losses in 2009 would continue to hurt revenue in the current year. [ID:nN24169637]
On the upside, Bombardier (BBDb.TO) was a key gainer after the world’s No. 1 trainmaker said it has signed a framework agreement with French National Railways that could be worth nearly $11 billion. Bombardier rose 2.6 percent to C$5.48. [ID:nN24243427]
The big banks were mixed ahead of the kickoff of their quarterly earnings reports on Thursday. While the economic slump may be over, the nation’s top lenders could report their biggest credit losses of the current cycle, taking a bit of shine off their still-huge profits. [ID:nN19121805]
Toronto-Dominion (TD.TO) was the biggest bank gainer, up 0.36 percent at C$66.25, but Bank of Montreal was off 0.46 percent at C$54.45. ($1=$1.05 Canadian) (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Peter Galloway)