TSX slips as financials, materials drive losses; energy bounces

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index fell on Monday as financial stocks dipped amid signs of cooling in Toronto’s overheated housing market, while a rebound in energy stocks tempered some losses.

A Bay Street sign, a symbol of Canada's economic markets and where main financial institutions are located, is seen in Toronto, May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE finished down 32.97 points, or 0.21 percent, at 15,409.78, after sliding as much as 97.81 points to 15,344.94 in early trading and then briefly turning positive.

Eight of the index’s 10 key sectors finished lower.

“Buyers are a little reticent to do anything, so they’re letting things drift,” said Irwin Michael, portfolio manager at ABC Funds.

Financial services stocks, which also briefly swung into positive territory, eased 0.2 percent. Individual stock moves were modest, but the group accounts for a third of the entire index.

The latest housing data for Toronto showed that while prices continued to rise, the pace slowed, with sales falling significantly and new listings surging as sellers looked to cash in and buyers moved to the sidelines under new housing rules aimed at cooling demand.

Financial stocks have see-sawed in recent weeks as investors wavered between robust earnings from Canada’s biggest banks and encouraging signs of economic growth, and housing market concerns.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 0.5 percent, with Agnico Eagle AEM.TO falling 1.7 percent to C$64.85 despite higher gold prices.

Osisko Gold Royalties Ltd shares OR.TO was a bright spot in the sector, soaring 13.5 percent to C$16.35 after the company announced it will buy a precious metals portfolio from Orion Mine for C$1.13 billion.

Asanko Gold Inc AKG.TO, which jumped as much as 13.7 percent in early trading, ended off 0.9 percent at C$2.10. The company said its liquidity position was likely to be over $100 million by mid-2018 days after short seller Muddy Waters said the miner would run out of cash by next year.

Energy stocks, which swung back and forth through the session, finished 0.1 percent higher, with Canadian Natural resources CNQ.TO up 0.7 percent to C$39.23.

Top crude exporter Saudi Arabia, along with several other countries in the region, cut ties with Qatar, accusing it of undermining regional stability. [O/R]

“People were confused this morning with the Qatar situation and what effect that would have,” said Michael. “Oil wasn’t sure which way to go.”

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the TSX by 155 to 91, for a 1.70-to-1 ratio on the downside.

Reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Dan Grebler