CANADA STOCKS-TSX ends lower as telecoms dip offsets energy gains
* TSX down 5.44 points, or 0.04 percent, at 12,826.52 * Six of 10 main sectors decline * Canadian Natural gains 3 percent after results, dividend hike * Telecoms shares drop 1 percent By John Tilak and Alastair Sharp TORONTO, March 7 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended slightly lower on Thursday as gains in energy shares on higher oil prices were offset by a drop in telecom stocks after the Canadian government moved to boost competition in the sector. The materials group, which includes the miners, also weighed as gold prices fell after the European Central Bank and the Bank of England did not hint at more economic stimulus. Canadian stocks fell even as U.S. stocks closed modestly higher, with the Dow ending at a record for a third straight day. "We're in rougher shape because of our commodity sector, which is not booming at the moment," said Douglas Davis, chief executive officer at Davis-Rea. The materials sector has shed more than 9 percent since the start of the year and is the worst-performing group on the index by far. It was down 0.8 percent, hurt by the drop in gold stocks. The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed down 5.44 points, or 0.04 percent, at 12,826.52. Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red. Earlier the index had hit its highest point since Jan. 30. Telecoms shares fell about 1 percent after the Canadian government said it would start the process of auctioning more prime wireless spectrum on Nov. 19. The weakness could be because of the possibility that the government blocks dominant wireless players, such as Rogers Communications Inc, from buying airwaves from new entrants, like Shaw Communications Inc, that were allowed to bid for set-aside airwaves in a 2008 auction, said Maher Yaghi, an analyst at Desjardins Securities. "If the limits to be set are too low, that could put in jeopardy the option that Rogers has bought to buy Shaw's spectrum next year," he said. Rogers slipped 1.3 percent to C$48.98 and Shaw lost 1.4 percent to C$24.41. Telus Corp gave back 1.5 percent to C$69.70, which Yaghi said was likely caused by some investors booking profits after the stock's strong performance in recent weeks. Energy shares added 1.3 percent and played the biggest positive role on the index, helped by higher U.S. crude oil prices and the rise in Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Shares of Canadian Natural provided the biggest boost, climbing 3 percent to C$32.10 after the independent oil producer reported a fall in quarterly profit but raised its dividend.