* 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
* Telecoms shares drop 1 percent
By John Tilak and Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, March 7 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
"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
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.