TSX ends flat as energy bounce offsets lower financials

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended flat on Thursday as a rebound in energy led by Canadian Natural Resources CNQ.TO, after sharp losses the day before, offset losses for the financial sector.

A man walks past an old Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) sign in Toronto, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

Canadian Natural Resources jumped 9.8 percent to C$43.31 after reaching a deal to buy most of the Canadian oil sands assets of Royal Dutch Shell Plc RDSa.L for $7.25 billion.

“That’s a pretty smart move ... to pick up some more assets when the price is still fairly cheap,” said Marcus Xu, president & director, M.Y. Capital Management Corp.

The overall energy group rallied 1.6 percent even as oil prices fell. U.S. crude oil futures CLc1 settled $1 lower at $49.28 a barrel as record U.S. crude inventories fed doubts about whether Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries-led supply cuts would reduce a global glut.

Despite Thursday’s gains, the energy group has fallen more than 10 percent since the start of the year. On Wednesday, it posted its lowest close since September.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended down 0.14 of a point at 15,496.84.

Six of the index’s 10 main groups ended lower. The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 0.4 percent as lower metal prices offset gains for fertilizer shares.

Potash Corp of Saskatchewan Inc POT.TO rose 2.9 percent to C$23.49, and merger partner Agrium Inc AGU.TO gained 2.9 percent to C$131.18 on prospects of less competition in the potash market.

Gold futures GCc1 fell 0.4 percent to $1,203.5 an ounce and copper prices CMCU3 declined 1.3 percent to $5,689.85 a ton as investors braced for a potential Federal Reserve interest rate hike next week. [GOL/][MET/L]

Xu expects the recent weakening trend for commodities to continue to weigh on Canada’s commodity-linked stock market ahead of the Fed decision.

The heavyweight financials group fell 0.3 percent even as bond yields climbed after European Central President Mario Draghi acknowledged economic improvement in the euro zone.

Investors are taking profits in bank shares after they had a “nice run,” Xu said.

Dorel Industries Inc DIIb.TO tumbled 7.4 percent to C$32.00 after the global consumer products company reported fourth-quarter results.

Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and James Dalgleish