*TSX down 0.2 percent at 12,023.83
*Financial sector leads index lower
*Energy up on firmer oil, Athabasca IPO (Adds details, quotes)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock market extended losses on Wednesday morning as weak banking shares offset gains for energy and material producers.
Financial shares were down 0.7 percent despite better than expected January domestic gross product data, which showed Canada’s economy continued to grow at a fast clip. [ID:nN31434455]
Royal Bank of Canada RY.TO, the country’s biggest lender, lost almost 1 percent to C$59.17, while Toronto-Dominion Bank TD.TO dropped 0.7 percent to C$75.51.
Energy stocks softened the fall a bit. Athabasca Oil Sands Corp said on Tuesday it will raise at least C$1.35 billion ($1.34 billion) in North America’s biggest initial public offering so far this year, a sign investor interest in Canadian oil sands assets has rebounded. [ID:nN30177984]
The index’s energy sector was up 0.3 percent, helped also by firmer oil prices. [O/R] Suncor Energy Inc, Canada’s biggest oil company, added 0.2 percent to C$32.97.
Materials stocks were up 0.3 percent, helped by stronger gold prices. [GOL/] Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO, the world’s largest gold producer, shot up 1.3 percent to C$39.04.
Gareth Watson, Canadian equity advisor at ScotiaMcLeod, said the strong Canadian GDP number wasn’t enough enough to rouse the market in the face of uninspiring global news.
“For the past three weeks basically the market said we’re not sure exactly where we’re going to go next and we need to see more supportive data from not just the market but also from the global economy to convince us that in fact this market should go higher,” Watson said.
A U.S. report on private-sector employment in March on Wednesday dented hopes of a stronger economic recovery, and a rating downgrade of Greek banks heightened concerns about that debt-laden country. [ID:nWEN2273] [ID:nWLB1513]
At 11:00 a.m. (1500 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was 20.38 points, or 0.2 percent, lower at 12,023.83. Earlier, the TSX straddled between positive and negative several times after opening a touch higher.
Watson said investors will also have a close eye on upcoming first quarter earnings season, as well as BlackBerry maker Research In Motion RIM.TO, which reports after the bell.
RIM shares dipped 0.5 percent to C$75.86 ahead of the results.
$1=$1.02 Canadian Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Peter Galloway