CANADA STOCKS-TSX steady as bank, energy shares offset Potash drop

Wed Sep 11, 2013 5:15pm EDT

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* TSX rises 0.94 points, or 0.01 percent, to 12,825.42
    * Six of the 10 main index sectors decline
    * Potash Corp drops about 3 percent
    * Bombardier higher after contract win
    * Dollarama up 7 percent after results

    By John Tilak and Rod Nickel
    TORONTO/WINNIPEG, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock
index was little changed on Wednesday as weakness in Potash Corp
of Saskatchewan was offset by a lightening of market
concerns over the Syrian crisis as the effort to reach a
diplomatic solution continued.
    Talks on placing Syria's chemical weapons under
international control intensified, while U.N. investigators
concluded that use of chemical weapons by Syrian government
forces was almost certainly responsible for two May massacres.
 
    Meantime, investors also braced for the possibility that the
U.S. Federal Reserve will move this month to scale back its
stimulus program.
    "The market really can't make up its mind," said Michael
Sprung, president of Sprung Investment Management. "There are a
lot of concerns out there that are plaguing the market."
    "The market is very fearful of the effect (the Fed's
stimulus wind-down) might have, and people are concerned about
the fragility of the recovery," he added.
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 closed up 0.94 points, or 0.01 percent, at 12,825.42. 
    Potash Corp had the biggest negative influence on the index,
dropping 3 percent.
    Shares of Potash and other producers of the crop nutrient
potash fell after strong advances in the two previous sessions
that were linked to optimism that Russian rival Uralkali could
change strategy.
    Reports circulated on Monday that billionaire Suleiman
Kerimov might sell his stake in Uralkali, leading to speculation
about a renewed partnership between Uralkali and Belarusian
potash producer Belaruskali that would support potash prices.
    But Uralkali said on Tuesday it had no plans to return to
the trade alliance with Belarus, and the world's biggest nickel
producer, Norilsk Nickel, said on Wednesday it had no
interest in Kerimov's stake. 
    The market wanted to believe that the Russians and
Belarusians will reconcile "but that hasn't been proven just
yet," said Stan Wong, vice president and portfolio manager at
Macquarie Private Wealth. 
    "Shorter term, the drama that's played out in these two
countries is still going to keep fertilizer companies a bit
under water," said Wong, whose portfolio includes Potash.
    Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red.
    The materials sector slipped 0.2 percent, with the Potash
losses offsetting gains in gold producers.
    Gold-mining shares added 0.4 percent as bullion prices edged
higher. Goldcorp Inc gained 1.6 percent to
C$28.60, and Barrick Gold Corp was up 0.7 percent to
C$19.20.
    Shares of energy producers climbed 0.1 percent. Suncor
Energy Inc rose 0.7 percent to C$36.68, and Canadian
Natural Resources Ltd advanced 1.4 percent to C$32.76.
    Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, rose
0.2 percent. Royal Bank of Canada, the country's biggest
lender, added 0.2 percent to C$66.20. 
    A consortium led by Bombardier Inc won a $288
million contract from Azerbaijan Railways to deliver signaling
systems for an international corridor connecting Asia and
Europe. Shares of Bombardier jumped 2.2 percent to C$5.06.
 
    Dollarama Inc reported a better-than-expected 20
percent rise in second-quarter profit, bolstered in part by
lower expenses, more traffic and new store openings. The stock
jumped 7 percent to C$79.30.
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