* TSX down 12.31 points, or 0.1 percent, at 12,500.11
* Energy shares weigh on index
* U.S. crude surplus hurts oil prices
* Greek deal optimism fades
* Canadian Jan housing starts beat expectations
By Jon Cook
TORONTO, Feb 8 Canadian stocks were lower
on Wednesday with energy shares taking a hit from a report that
showed U.S. crude inventories rose last week and overall
sentiment weakening as the outcome of Greek debt negotiations
remained in flux.
Oil and gas shares fell after data from the U.S. Energy
Information Administration showed oil inventories rose, which
countered news of a large drop reported by industry body
American Petropleum Institute (API) on Tuesday.
Oil company Canadian Natural Resources led losses,
falling 1.4 percent to C$37.98.
At 12:31 p.m. (1731 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's
S&P/TSX composite index was down 12.31 points, or 0.1
percent, at 12,500.11. Early in the day it rose as high as
12,575.15, above its 200-day moving average of 12,560.94.
The slide in oil erased early momentum from reports of a
pending agreement in talks between Greece and the European Union
on austerity measures needed to secure a 130 billion euro ($172
billion) rescue package for Greece.
The more positive Greek tone had been welcomed by Canadian
banks and mining shares, which have risen this year as
commodities rallied on the brightening euro zone outlook. But
both reversed course as a deal remained elusive.
Brookfield Asset Management led financial shares
lower, dropping 1.3 percent to C$31.24.
Teck Resources, down 1.2 percent at C$41.10, led
losses for the mining sector, which has risen more than 12
percent this year.
Goldcorp fell 1 percent to C$47.13 after Canadian
securities regulators on Tuesday implicated company Chairman Ian
Telfer in an alleged insider trading scheme, saying he helped
the main defendant in the case disguise her illegal trading
activities. Telfer denied the charge.
"That may be a bit of an overhang on the stock relative to
the group as a whole," said John Hughes, senior analyst at
Agrium Inc defied the downward move, climbing 1.2
percent to C$82.08 after it reported a 43 percent rise in
fourth-quarter net profit on Wednesday.
Shares of WestJet Airlines Ltd rose nearly 4
percent to C$13.68 after Canada's second-largest carrier said
its quarterly earnings dipped in the fourth quarter but the
result topped expectations.
Empire Co Ltd's shares fell 0.7 percent to C$
55.86 after Canada's No. 2 grocer said the chief executive of
its Sobeys Inc grocery store chain will retire in the spring
because of a health problem.
Also on Wednesday, Canadian housing data showed starts
declined in January from December, but were still above