TSX edges lower as virus worries nip recovery hopes

(Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index edged slightly lower on Thursday as worries over surging global coronavirus cases offset hopes of recovery stemming from a pick-up in housing starts across the country.

FILE PHOTO: The Art Deco facade of the original Toronto Stock Exchange building is seen on Bay Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 23, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

* At 9:48 a.m. ET (13:48 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 16.19 points, or 0.1%, at 15,613.

* Canadian housing starts rose by more than expected in June as groundbreaking increased on multiple unit urban homes, data from the national housing agency showed on Thursday, providing another sign of economic recovery form the coronavirus crisis.

* More than 60,000 new COVID-19 infections were reported on Wednesday and U.S. deaths rose by more than 900 for the second straight day, the highest since early June.

* France’s TGV high-speed train maker Alstom ALSO.PA on Thursday offered to sell a French rail factory and make other concessions to win European Commission approval for its planned purchase of Bombardier Inc’s BBDb.TO transportation business.

* The energy sector slipped 0.4% as U.S. crude prices were down 1.0% a barrel, while Brent crude lost 0.5%.

* The financials sector slipped 0.9%. The industrials sector rose 0.2%.

* The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 0.5% as gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,816.5 an ounce.

* On the TSX, 84 issues were higher, while 127 issues declined for a 1.51-to-1 ratio to the downside, with 15.84 million shares traded.

* The largest percentage gainers on the TSX were Ballard Power Systems Inc BLDP.TO, which jumped 5.7% and AltaGas Ltd ALA.TO, which rose 4.1%.

* NovaGold Resources Inc NG.TO fell 4.8%, the most on the TSX, after responding to law firm Hagens Berman's allegations of possible securities law violations. The second biggest decliner was Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp AQN.TO, down 3.5% on a C$900-million share offering.

* The most heavily-traded shares by volume were Northcliff Resources Ltd NCF.TO, Hexo Corp HEXO.TO and St. Augustine Gold and Copper Limited SAU.TO.

* The TSX posted eight new 52-week highs and no new lows.

* Across all Canadian issues there were 39 new 52-week highs and six new lows, with total volume of 41.39 million shares.

Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.