* TSX down 88.88 points, or 0.64 pct, at 13,867.31
* Five of 10 main groups lower
* Energy down 1.88 pct, materials off 2.2 pct
* Financials up 1.4 pct (Updates with details, comment)
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index closed lower for a fourth straight session on Thursday as energy and gold-mining issues retreated after rising for several days in reaction to the upheavals in North Africa.
The energy group, which had advanced more than 8 percent with gains in eight of the previous nine sessions, fell 1.88 percent. Suncor Energy (SU.TO) slumped 4.51 percent to C$44.00, while Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) shed 2.2 percent to C$47.06.
Oil prices skidded after rallying to 2-1/2-year highs, with traders citing a rumor that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had been shot as one reason for the late selloff. [O/R] [ID:nL3E7DO0SC
“The energy (sector) really seems to be taking a hit here, but it has had a very good gain,” said John Kinsey, a portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities Ltd.
Violence in Libya, and worries the crisis could spread to other oil-producing countries in the Middle East, had sent crude prices soaring over the last several sessions. [ID:nLDE71N009]
Gold miners were also in heavy retreat and helped drag the overall materials group 2.2 percent lower.
Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) sank 3.03 percent to C$50.23, Goldcorp (G.TO) was off 2.61 percent at C$44.45, while Agnico Eagle (AEM.TO) sagged 4.19 percent to C$67.70.
Bullion prices erased earlier gains as worries eased somewhat over soaring oil prices and escalating turmoil in Libya. [GOL/]
News that the world’s No. 2 gold producer, U.S.-based Newmont Mining NMC.TO was forecasting lower gold and copper production this year may also have weighed on the sector, Kinsey said. [ID:nN24231706]
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE fell 88.88 points, or 0.64 percent, to finish at 13,867.31. Five of the 10 main groups retreated.
The index has given back all of its gains from last week, when it closed above 14,000 points for the first time since July 2008.
“It just seems like it’s one of those days where everything is getting hit. There’s profit-taking ... and Libya could be one of the factors.” said Kinsey.
Offsetting losses was a 1.4 percent rise by financial issues, as Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) and National Bank of Canada (NA.TO) both posted stronger than expected profits on Thursday.
CIBC shares jumped 3.43 percent to C$82.43 to lead the gainers, while National Bank shares rose 2.54 percent to C$73.60. [ID:nN24267496]
Other banks followed suit, with Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) climbing 2.05 percent to C$61.77 and Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) gaining 1.45 percent to finish at C$59.35.
“It was really the financials (group) that was leading the parade today,” said Kinsey. “If there was one disappointment it would be (CIBC) didn’t raise their dividend.” (Reporting by Solarina Ho)