CANADA STOCKS-TSX drops on China, Ukraine worry; gold stocks jump

Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:08pm EDT

* TSX down 73.86 points, or 0.52 percent, at 14,245.14
    * Nine of the 10 main index sectors decline
    * Empire Co drops after posting results
    * Cameco gains as production starts at Cigar Lake mine

    By John Tilak
    TORONTO, March 13 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index fell
on Thursday with almost every major sector declining as worries
grew about soft economic data from China and the crisis in
Ukraine.  
    Russia conducted military exercises near its border with
Ukraine, while U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said serious
measures would be taken by the United States and Europe if the
referendum on Crimea joining Russia takes place on Sunday as
planned. 
    In China, growth in investment, retail sales and factory
output slipped to multiyear lows, reinforcing concerns raised by
a recent wave of weak economic figures in the world's
second-biggest economy. 
    Data showing that the number of Americans filing new claims
for unemployment benefits dropped to a three-month low last week
failed to brighten the mood. 
    But one group, gold-mining stocks, continued its march
higher, jumping 2.3 percent as investors looked for safety in
bullion amid the uncertainty. The sector gained for a third
straight session and is up about 35 percent since the start of
the year.
    Despite Thursday's decline, the Toronto stock market's
benchmark index is up about 4.5 percent this year, increasing
concern among some investors that the runup might result in a
correction. 
    "Today's action seems to be driven not just by the ongoing
situation in Ukraine but also this spate of soft data that
continues to come out of China," said Elvis Picardo, strategist
at Global Securities in Vancouver. "Those concerns are an
overhang."
    "Both are wildcard events that could drive the markets much
lower from these levels," he added. "But conversely, if things
get better, they would turn out to be classic buying
opportunities."
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 was down 73.86 points, or 0.52 percent, at 14,245.14. 
    "I'm going to start taking profits in the next two to three
weeks. Am I going to be bailing out totally? No," said Keith
Richards, portfolio manager and technical analyst at ValueTrend
Wealth Management.
    "You stick to the program, let the market climb the wall of
worry and when you see the market start to roll over, then you
can get out," he added.
    Nine of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red on
Thursday.
    Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector,
declined 0.8 percent, with Bank of Nova Scotia losing
0.8 percent to C$64.61 and Bank of Montreal dropping
1.2 percent to C$72.43.
    The energy group fell 0.2 percent, hurt by a decline in the
price of Brent crude. Suncor Energy Inc was down 1.2
percent at C$36.25, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd 
lost 1 percent to C$39.45.
    In corporate news, Empire Co Ltd dropped about 3
percent to C$68.10 after the operator of the Sobeys grocery
chain posted a fall in quarterly earnings late on Wednesday.
 
    Shares of Cameco Corp advanced 2.7 percent to
C$27.63 after the uranium miner said it had begun producing ore
at its often-delayed Cigar Lake mine in northern Saskatchewan.
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