CANADA STOCKS-TSX ends down as earnings overshadow Greek deal

Thu Feb 9, 2012 5:04pm EST

* TSX ends down 23.08 pts, or 0.2 pct, at 12,497.94

* Financials fall on Manulife earnings

* BCE's slide hurts telecoms

* Market unswayed by Greek bailout deal, U.S. data

By Jon Cook

TORONTO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index ended lower on Thursday as it brushed off optimism generated by a long-awaited Greek bailout deal and strong U.S. jobs data, and moved instead on some weak earnings in the financial and telecom sectors.

The TSX has rallied more than 4 percent so far this year, after ending 2011 down more than 11 percent, thanks largely to a slowly improving U.S. economy and the absence of further bad news from Europe.

That formula appeared intact on Thursday as a report showed weekly U.S. jobless claims fell and Athens finally agreed to adopt new austerity measures in exchange for a 130 billion euro ($172 billion) aid package in a bid avoid a debt default.

"It's a nonsensical day. It's one for the X-Files," said Barry Schwartz, vice-president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services. "If you have good economic data in the U.S. it's (usually) going to jump the border to Canada."

Despite the positive signs, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index finished down 23.08 points, or 0.2 percent, at 12,497.94. It was its lowest close this month.

"The market is confused because there are so many cross currents going on out there," said Sal Masionis, a stockbroker at Brant Securities.

Nearly all of the TSX's 10 main sectors were lower, led down by financials and telecoms after weaker than expected earnings by industry heavyweights Manulife Financial and BCE Inc .

Manulife's shares fell 1.9 percent to C$11.88 after the No. 1 life insurer reported a quarterly loss, citing the weaker global economy and low interest rates. It also said chief financial officer Michael Bell would step down.

"The only silver lining in that story is if the fear trade is really coming out of the market then interest rates will start to tick higher," said Schwartz.

The drag of low interest rates on Manulife's results seemed unlikely to end soon. Last month, the Bank of Canada said it would hold its main interest rate at 1 percent until 2013.

The U.S. Federal Reserve recently extended its rate freeze until late 2014. The European Central Bank held rates at a record low on Thursday, but policymakers suggested rates could fall even further.

The telecom sector slid nearly 1 percent after subpar earnings from industry heavyweight BCE. The parent of Bell Canada saw it shares tumble 3 percent to C$39.62 after it reported a quarterly profit that fell short of forecasts.

Materials and energy shares slipped, despite higher oil and copper prices, as the Greek bailout deal strengthened the euro and made U.S. dollar-priced commodities cheaper for investors.

Potash Corp fell 1.1 percent to C$45.79 to pace losses on the materials side.

Oil and gas issues were hurt by Canadian Oil Sands Ltd , whose shares slid more than 4 percent to C$22.61 as Canadian synthetic crude prices have been hit by deepening discounts due to surging industry-wide production and limited export pipeline capacity.

In other company news, Air Canada's more heavily traded class B shares fell 12.2 percent to close at C$1.15 after the carrier reported a bigger than expected quarterly loss on Thursday.

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