CANADA STOCKS-TSX steady as investors brace for Fed comment
* TSX rises 5.34 points, or 0.04 percent, to 12,587.09 * Six of 10 main sectors advance * Talisman drops after quarterly loss By John Tilak TORONTO, July 31 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was little changed on Wednesday as investors looked to a Federal Reserve meeting for direction about the U.S. central bank's monetary stimulus program. Gains in financial and energy shares offset by weakness in Potash Corp, which extended its declines after news of the breakup of a Russian-Belarusian potash joint venture on Tuesday sent shockwaves through the industry. U.S. stocks gained modestly after data showing U.S. economic growth unexpectedly accelerated in the second quarter, laying a firmer foundation for the rest of the year that could bring the Federal Reserve a step closer to cutting back its monetary stimulus. The Fed is expected to decide at the end of the policy meeting to continue buying bonds at an $85 billion monthly pace. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke "is going to choose his words very carefully, say things are improving but not roaring ahead," said David Cockfield, managing director and portfolio manager at Northland Wealth Management. "He'll say, 'We're going to keep interest rates low and stick to our guns on keeping the quantitative easing program running until we feel that there's stronger growth'," he added. Cockfield does not expect the bond buying to ease in September and says Bernanke will prepare the market for that. The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 5.34 points, or 0.04 percent, at 12,587.09. Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher. Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, added 0.2 percent. Royal Bank of Canada, the country's biggest lender, gained 0.2 percent to C$65.00. Shares of energy producers rose 0.3 percent, with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd climbing 1.4 percent to C$32.09. But Talisman Energy Inc posted a surprise second-quarter loss and said it now expects full-year production to be at the lower end of its earlier forecast range due to a drop in output from its North Sea operations. The stock fell 2.1 percent to C$11.69. The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, lost 1.1 percent. Potash gave back 4.5 percent to C$31.21 and had the biggest negative influence on the market. Gold miners such as Barrick Gold Corp, down 1.8 percent at C$17.41, also declined. In other news, Torstar Corp warned that print revenue would remain under pressure in the second half of the year, after reporting a fifth straight fall in quarterly profit. Shares of the owner of Canada's largest daily newspaper by circulation fell 6.1 percent to C$5.59.
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