* TSX down 44.42 pts, or 0.4 pct, at 12,441.17
* Gold miners, financials drag
* Greek debt deal progress helps sentiment
By Jon Cook
TORONTO, Feb 17 Toronto's main stock index
was lower at midday on Friday as earnings-related drops in
gold-mining and financial shares offset optimism that Greece
will seal a long-awaited bailout deal next week and avoid a
messy debt default.
Soft earnings from Canada's top gold miners this week
dragged on the heavyweight materials sector, which fell 1
percent. Financial shares were down 0.2 percent, hurt by a big
quarterly loss reported by Fairfax Financial Holdings.
Among miners, Barrick Gold tumbled 2.1 percent to
C$46.99 after the country's largest gold producer reported an
increase in quarterly operating profit on Thursday, but still
fell short of expectations.
Smaller miners Kinross Gold and Agnico-Eagle
also weighed after both reported massive impairment charges.
Kinross was down 2.3 percent at C$10.81, and Agnico-Eagle fell
2.8 percent to C$35.54
The bearish sentiment on gold miners was likely the result
of broader uncertainty among investors about the global economy
and the direction of bullion prices, said Fred Ketchen, director
of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.
"They're just wandering what's the next thing we're going to
find out," Ketchen said. "If that's positive, the price of gold
probably goes up, and if it's got a negative twinge to it, the
price of gold probably goes down."
At noon (1700 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX
composite index was down 44.42 points, or 0.4 percent,
at 12,441.17 after opening higher.
The market fell despite news that Greece was close to an
agreement with euro zone policymakers on a debt swap deal.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on Friday he was "cautiously
optimistic" that European leaders would resolve the Greek debt
crisis next week.
"Some of the rhetoric that we've been hearing over the last
24 hours makes you feel that they're getting there," Ketchen
Signs of Greek progress failed to help Canadian financial
issues. Fairfax Financial pulled the sector down, sliding more
than 6 percent to C$391.78 after the property and casualty
insurer run by investment guru Prem Watsa said on Thursday its
fourth-quarter loss widened by 56 percent to C$771.5 million
Oil and gas issues edged up 0.2 percent as Brent crude
hovered near $120 a barrel on Friday, supported by tension
between Iran and the West. Talisman Energy led
gains, up 2.2 percent at C$13.68.
Encana Corp rose 0.8 percent to C$20.51 after
Canada's third largest energy producer said on Friday it will
sell a 40 percent stake in British Columbia gas assets to
Japan's Mitsubishi Corp in a C$2.9 billion deal that
will help it shore up a balance sheet battered by weak gas