* TSX ends down 44.22 pts, or 0.4 pct, at 12,354.47
* Marks index's lowest close since Jan. 18
* Mining, energy shares weigh
* U.S. retail data worries market
* Euro zone credit downgrades weigh
By Jon Cook
TORONTO, Feb 14 Canadian stocks ended at
their lowest level in nearly a month on Tuesday, undermining the
big gains they made at the start of the year, as mining and
energy issues slid on a fresh round of euro zone credit
downgrades and on concern about slowing U.S. retail sales.
Market confidence in the U.S. economy slipped after data
showed retail sales rose less than forecast in January as
consumers cut back on car purchases and did less online
shopping. Sales increased 0.4 percent in the month, the Commerce
Department said, less than the 0.7 percent rise expected by
economists polled by Reuters.
"People are extremely concerned about the degree to which
consumers are extended at this point in time," said Michael
Sprung, president of Sprung Investment Management Inc. "A soft
sales number just goes to confirm that there's not a lot of
The weak U.S. data had a more pronounced effect in Toronto
than it did on U.S. stock markets. The Toronto index's
heavyweight materials group fell nearly 1 percent on concern
about falling U.S. demand for Canadian resources.
Losses were led by miner Barrick Gold, which edged
down 0.7 percent to C$47.64 as bullion prices slid with the euro
after Moody's warned it may cut its triple-A credit ratings for
France, Britain and Austria.
"It was a shot across the bow," said Robert Gorman, chief
portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse, of the Moody's warnings.
Also in the materials group, fertilizer producer Potash Corp
dropped 0.5 percent to C$44.45 and diversified miner
Teck Resources slipped 0.8 percent to C$38.97, hit by
another drop in copper prices.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
finished down 44.22 points, or 0.36 percent, at
12,354.47, its lowest close since Jan. 18.
Declines in oil and gas producers were led by Canadian
Natural Resources, which tumbled nearly 5 percent to
C$36.36 after the company said its Horizon oil sands upgrader in
northern Alberta would be shut down for several weeks longer
than expected to repair a processing unit.
Market optimism spurred by Greece's approval on Sunday of
painful austerity measures to secure another debt bailout was
shortlived as euro zone finance ministers dropped plans for a
special face-to-face meeting on Wednesday to finalize 130
billion euro ($170.7 billion) bailout for Greece, and opted to
hold a conference call instead.
The European headwinds helped push financials lower.
Toronto-Dominion Bank led the losses, falling 0.3
percent to C$78.34.
Insurers, which have more exposure to risky European debt
holdings, were pulled lower by Manulife Financial,
which fell 0.9 percent to C$11.87.
"We've seen the problems in Europe being prolonged by
innaction," Sprung said. "More of the news in the last month has
been towards the side that would see a slowdown in economic
activity rather than help accelerate it."