* TSX down 4.86 points, or 0.04 percent, at 11,958.11
* Oil drops as U.S. dollar gains on Europe debt fears
* Eight of TSX’s main groups higher (Adds closing numbers, details, quotes)
By John McCrank
TORONTO, March 25 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index ended slightly lower on Thursday as energy stocks declined late in the session on global debt concerns, offsetting a rise in financials.
Baytex Energy BTE_u.TO ended down 3.5 percent at C$35.12 and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) shed 0.7 percent to C$71.84, as a stronger U.S. dollar pressured energy prices, pushing the energy group down 0.5 percent.
The greenback strengthened against the euro after a draft agreement drawn up by the euro zone showed that it and the International Monetary Fund will share the burden of financial aid for debt-burdened Greece.
The heavily-weighted materials group, home to mining stocks, also finished lower, with Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO) shedding 2.3 percent to C$122.90, and Goldcorp (G.TO) dropping 1.9 percent to C$37.50.
“Energy and materials, these are the two groups that have been suffering the most in the past several weeks stock wise,” due to the global economic concerns, said Joe Ismail, technical analyst at Maison Placements Canada.
He said the lower prices in the groups are getting to the point where “it gets attractive to long-term investors to stick their noses in.”
“While crude has been around $80 for a while now, the stocks have been slaughtered, senior ones like EnCana and Suncor (SU.TO) and in materials, Barrick Gold (ABX.TO).”
Ivanhoe (IVN.TO) was an exception among miners, gaining 1 percent to C$16.77 after it said late on Wednesday it will consider spinning off its 50 percent owned Altynalmas Gold venture.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 4.86 points, or 0.04 percent, at 11,958.11. Eight of the index’s 10 groups ended higher.
Earlier in the day, the index was up nearly three-quarters of a percent in a broad rally, led by strength in financials.
“The market is very jumpy and very volatile,” said Irwin Michael, portfolio manager at ABC Funds, adding that many fund managers were adjusting portfolios ahead of month end and quarter end.
The financial sector gained 0.6 percent, with Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) rising 0.6 percent to C$76.50 and Fairfax Financial up 0.8 percent to C$379.20.
“When in doubt and you want to put money out, you go into the banks and you will never be criticized,” said Michael.
“The Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO), for instance, yields 4.5 percent, and that’s about 20 times better than you can get from bankers acceptances right now, yielding maybe 0.25 percent.”
Elsewhere, Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO) rose 1.9 percent to C$61.29 after Macquarie Equities Research raised its 12-month price target to C$70 from C$61 and upgraded its rating on the stock to outperform from neutral, due to stronger then expected carload volumes.
On the earnings front, shares of Lululemon Athletica LLL.TO gained 9.5 percent to C$40.43, after the clothing retailer said its quarterly profit nearly tripled, helped by its line of running gear and a rebound in consumer confidence. [ID:nN25211851] ($1=$1.02 Canadian) (Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)