CANADA STOCKS-TSX little changed as Greek deal remains elusive

Wed Feb 8, 2012 5:04pm EST

* TSX up 8.6 pts, or 0.1 pct, at 12,521.02

* Financials rise, miners fall

* Greek deal optimism fades

By Jon Cook

TORONTO, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Canadian stocks closed little changed on Wednesday as hopes for a Greek debt deal lifted financial shares, which were offset by losses among miners after some discouraging European economic data.

Marathon negotiations between Greece and its creditors to secure a 130-billion-euro ($172 billion) bailout that would ensure Athens can cover massive bond redemptions that come due next month failed to yield a deal.

"The market is going to go sideways until something is clear cut," said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada. "The reality of it is there hasn't been a deal."

Canadian stocks finished marginally up, led by a 0.5 percent rise in financials as banks welcomed the more positive Greek tone. Royal Bank of Canada was the best performer among the major banks, rising 0.6 percent to C$53.93. Bank of Montreal was up 0.8 percent to C$58.60.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed up 8.6 points, or 0.1 percent, at 12,521.02. Early in the day it rose as high as 12,575.15, but met resistance after climbing above its 200-day moving average.

"You hit it and then you bounce. There wasn't enough impetus for it to go beyond that," said Ing.

Mining stocks were hurt by a slide in gold as bullion dropped 1 percent on news that Italy's economy probably contracted in the fourth quarter and on discouraging reports from Germany and France.

Teck Resources, down 2 percent at C$40.75, led losses for the mining sector, which has risen more than 12 percent this year.

Goldcorp fell 1.3 percent to C$46.97 after Canadian securities regulators on Tuesday implicated company Chairman Ian Telfer in an alleged insider trading scheme, saying he helped the main defendant in the case disguise her illegal trading activities. Telfer denied the charge.

"That may be a bit of an overhang on the stock relative to the group as a whole," said John Hughes, senior mining analyst at Desjardins Securities.

Agrium Inc defied the downward move, climbing 1.9 percent to C$82.63 after it reported a 43 percent rise in fourth-quarter net profit on Wednesday.

Shares of WestJet Airlines Ltd rose more than 4 percent to C$13.65 after Canada's second-largest carrier said its quarterly earnings dipped in the fourth quarter but the result topped expectations.

It also said it will launch a new regional operation to serve smaller Canadian destinations after winning the endorsement of its workforce.

Empire Co Ltd's shares fell 0.7 percent to C$ 55.89 after Canada's No. 2 grocer said the chief executive of its Sobeys Inc grocery store chain will retire in the spring because of a health problem.

Also on Wednesday, Canadian housing data showed starts declined in January from December, but were still above expectations.

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