CANADA STOCKS-TSX steady as Encana rise offset by gold, Potash

Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:38am EDT

* TSX up 2.32 points at 12,463.57

* Six of the index's 10 main groups advanced

By Solarina Ho

TORONTO, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was little changed on Thursday as a gain in Encana Corp, following a takeover in the energy sector, was offset by weakness in gold miners and Potash Corp after the fertilizer producer issued a weaker outlook.

Oil and gas producer Encana was the biggest gainer on the index, climbing 4.35 percent to C$23.77.

"Encana is up because Exxon Mobil is going to buy Celtic. Natural gas producers are being looked at favorably because of Exxon's move," said Rick Hutcheon, president and chief operating officer at RKH Investments.

Exxon Mobil Corp agreed to buy Celtic Exploration Ltd for C$2.6 billion ($2.64 billion) on Wednesday, the latest foreign acquisition bid for a Canadian resource company.

The overall energy group was up a modest 0.2 percent, as falling U.S. crude prices dragged on other energy stocks. Cenovus Energy eased 0.9 percent to C$34.27, while Husky Energy fell 2.13 percent to C$27.59.

Oil prices weakened as supply concerns eased and the United States reported a rise in weekly jobless claims.

Potash, the world's biggest fertilizer producer, was one of the biggest drags on the index, falling 1.12 percent to C$40.66.

Several analysts cut its stock price target and rating following comments by the company's chief executive that full-year earnings will fall below the low end of its previous forecast range.

The overall materials group, of which Potash is a part, was down 0.73 percent.

The materials group is also home to gold miners, which were down 1.47 percent. Barrick Gold fell 1.28 percent to C$38.63 while Goldcorp was off 1.75 percent at C$42.57.

The retreat tracked bullion prices, which eased in tandem with a softer euro. Investors were awaiting news from a meeting of euro zone policymakers after Germany and France clashed over greater European Union control of national budgets and moves toward a single banking supervisor.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 2.32 points at 12,463.57 late Thursday morning, following three straight sessions of gains.

Six of the index's 10 main groups advanced.

"The overarching issue the market is coming to terms with is the US election. The next three weeks or so will be all about reading the tea leaves," said Hutcheon.

"Nothing much will happen with the markets until then. We will just muddle through this phase."

The financial sector, which makes up nearly a third of the index, was up 0.33 percent. It was led by Royal Bank of Canada , which climbed 0.45 percent to C$58.45, and was the second most influential gainer.

"It's a pretty stable sector in an otherwise trendless market," Hutcheon said of the rise of financial stocks.

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