CANADA STOCKS-TSX ends flat ahead of word on Nexen, Progress

Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:50pm EST

* TSX ends up 8.46 points, 0.07 pct, at 12,159.59
    * Index slips 0.65 pct on week
    * PM expected to announce ruling on CNOOC bid for Nexen
    * Nexen shares fall 6.4 percent
    * Enbridge up 3.9 pct after proposing pipeline expansion

    By Alastair Sharp
    TORONTO, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index edged
higher on Friday despite a sharp drop in shares of Nexen Inc
 and Progress Energy Resources Corp ahead of a
government announcement on what is expected to be its ruling on
takeover bids for the companies.
    Investors appeared to want to limit their exposure to stocks
that could move violently in either direction depending on the
announcement, which is also expected to include guidelines on
how bids for Canadian companies by state-owned enterprises will
be assessed in future. 
    "People don't want to be long the uncertainty over a
weekend, so it's just shoot first and ask questions later," said
John Goldsmith, deputy head of equities at Montrusco Bolton.
    Nexen fell as much as 15.9 percent and Progress slipped
almost 8 percent in late trade, before each pared those losses
somewhat, closing down 6.4 percent at C$23.29 and off 4.4
percent at C$19.37 respectively.
    China's CNOOC Ltd has offered $15.1 billion to buy Nexen and
Malaysia's Petronas has bid C$5.2 billion for Progress. The
Progress deal has already been rejected by the government once.
    "Obviously this is a fairly significant policy decision, not
just for Nexen but for the Canadian market and the resource
sector specifically," said Levente Mady, senior portfolio
manager at PI Financial Corp in Vancouver.
    The news is expected at 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT), with Prime
Minister Stephen Harper to make a statement soon after that.
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 ended up 8.46 points, or 0.07 percent at 12,159.59
after bobbing on both sides of the break-even line through most
of the session. It dipped 0.65 percent on the week.
    Data showing strong jobs growth in the United States and
Canada helped economically sensitive resources stocks but the
broader advance was limited by another day of losses for
Toronto-Dominion Bank and a bruising survey on the outlook of
U.S. consumers heading into the Christmas season also weighed.
 
    In Canada, data showed a higher-than-expected 59,300 jobs
were added in November, with the bulk of hiring coming in
full-time positions and in the private sector. 
    In the United States, Canada's main trading partner, a
bumper 146,000 jobs were created last month, though a drop in
the unemployment rate suggested some people gave up the search
for work and data for earlier months was revised lower.
 
    "The picture does look somewhat supportive and constructive
but at the same time when you dig in there it's not as rosy as
it appears," said Sid Mokhtari, a market technician at CIBC
World Markets.
    Pipeline operator Enbridge Inc gained 3.9 percent
to C$41.56 after proposing a C$6.2 billion expansion of its oil
pipeline system, aimed at moving surging volumes of light crude
from Western Canada and the North Dakota Bakken to refineries in
the eastern part of the continent and U.S. Midwest.
 
    Crescent Point Energy Corp, which produces shale
light oil in that region and would benefit from improved access
to markets, gained 0.8 percent to C$36.47.  
    TD fell 0.9 percent to C$80.36, after dropping 1.8 percent
on Thursday. Bank of Nova Scotia 
reported quarterly results on Friday, the last of Canada's big
banks to do so. It posted a 31 percent profit increase but its
shares ended down 3 Canadian cents at C$55.53. 
    "The results have been good," Mokhtari said of the banks.
"Generally speaking a rule of thumb is that you anticipate the
results and position for them and when the news comes people
tend to take profit."
    The jobs data pointed to a slow but steady recovery and
offered hope for a stronger end to the year and start to 2013.
    "It's not lights out but it is supportive of stronger market
performance over time," said Craig Fehr, Canadian market
strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.
    "That being said, it would be naive to assume that the
fiscal cliff drama isn't going to continue to be the primary,
very short-term, market driver."
    Global markets have in recent weeks been buffeted by concern
over setbacks in negotiations to fix the U.S. "fiscal cliff"
budget crisis, which, if not resolved, could push the country
back into recession. 
    Companies most attuned to economic signals, including miners
and energy companies, saw the biggest gains on Friday. Barrick
Gold Corp was up 0.5 percent at C$33.27, and Goldcorp
Inc rose 1.2 percent to C$36.91 as bullion prices
rebounded.
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