BUSINESS

Toronto stock market falls as commodity prices pull down industrial, metals

09/20/2012 08:41 EDT | Updated 11/20/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - The Toronto stock market ended another losing session on Thursday as weaker commodities weighed heavy on the industrial and metals sectors.

The S&P/TSX composite index dropped 26.91 points to 12,409.25 while the TSX Venture Exchange slid 8.63 points to 1,334.89.

The Canadian dollar fell 0.21 of a cent to 102.41 cents US.

TSX energy stocks were up 0.4 per cent while the price of crude inched lower for the October contract, falling 11 cents to US$91.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The November contract, which traded in higher volume, gained 12 cents to $92.42.

Copper slid 5.5 cents to US$3.76 a pound while gold bullion fell $1.50 to end the session at US$1,770.20 an ounce.

Shares of Canadian railroad companies fell after U.S. competitor Norfolk Southern Corp. warned that its earnings will be weaker than anticipated. Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) dropped 2.2 per cent, or $2.17. to $80.75, while Canadian National Railway (TSX:CNR) pulled back 4.2 per cent, or $4.15, to $87.44. The TSX Industrials sector fell 2.1 per cent.

Among the sobering news for investors was a survey pointing to a deepening recession in Europe, figures from Japan that showed the country's powerhouse export sector was continuing to suffer and a private survey of manufacturers in China that showed activity fell again in September, though at a slightly slower pace than in August.

The weakness in China has caused a particular concern over whether the world's second-largest economy may impact the demand for commodities. Prices for soybeans, platinum and palladium also dropped.

In the U.S., the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell only slightly last week, suggesting that the hiring level remains weak. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications declined by 3,000 from the previous week, to a seasonally adjusted 382,000.

The Dow Jones industrial average was ahead 18.97 points to 13,596.93, the Nasdaq composite index fell 6.66 points to 3,175.96 and the S&P 500 index backed off 0.79 of a point to 1,460.26.

"Over the last few days there's been a hangover," said Allan Small, senior adviser at DWM Securities.

"This week you're seeing ... a lack of a catalyst to take the market higher. We're at a bit of a pause here.

"There's so much lack of news that people are already looking to the jobs numbers which come out in a couple weeks," he added.

The latest U.S. employment numbers are due on Oct. 5.

The tug-of-war between bull and bearish sentiment is likely to continue for some time, suggested CMC Markets Canada senior market analyst Colin Cieszynski in a note.

"For the next two months until earnings season ends in mid-November, we could see a tug of war between the positive effect of increased money supply and the negative effect of a slow global economy and the risk of more earnings disappointments," he wrote.

In corporate developments, shareholders of Nexen Inc. (TSX:NXY) have approved a proposed $15.1-billion Chinese takeover of the company by China National Offshore Oil Company. The transaction still requires approval by the Canadian government under the Investment Canada Act. Nexen shares were up five cents to $24.72.

Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) shares held steady at $1.23 as the company announced plans to hire 900 new employees for the main carrier, and another 200 for its new low-cost carrier, set to launch next year.

An Ontario judge has certified a $1-billion class-action lawsuit launched last May against SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) on behalf of investors who saw the value of their shares plummet on revelations about payments in North Africa. Shares of the company were down 64 cents to $38.16.