TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed little changed Monday, well off the highs of the session amid worry centred on whether Greece will exit the eurozone and on subpar economic data from China.
The S&P/TSX composite index came down from an 84-point gain to close up 16.78 points at 15,100.7. Strength came from energy and gold stocks, which took off on rising prices for oil and bullion.
The Canadian dollar rose 0.37 of a cent to 80.22 cents US.
New York indexes were lower as the Dow Jones industrials closed down 95.08 points at 17,729.21, the Nasdaq was 18.39 points lower at 4,726.01 and the S&P 500 index was off 8.73 points at 2,046.74.
Greece's new leftist government appeared set on a collision course with the country's creditors. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is demanding a "bridge agreement" that would give Greece and its creditors time to negotiate a new debt deal much more favourable to the country by June.
The current bailout deal between Greece and its creditors runs until the end of February, but Tsipras said the government is "not entitled to ask for an extension," saying the bailout deals that have kept the country afloat "have been abolished by popular mandate."
"Conditions compared to the last Greek crisis are different and they are better than what they were," said Gareth Watson, vice-president, investment management and research at Richardson GMP Ltd.
"From that perspective, I would understand why some people would not be paying as much attention to it. But you can’t ignore it."
The TSX energy sector was up another 1.76 per cent, building on last week's 12 per cent run-up as March crude gained $1.93 Monday to US$53.62 a barrel. Oil prices have essentially stopped going straight down after plunging more than 50 per cent since the highs of last summer. Last week, oil prices rose seven per cent despite data showing U.S. inventories at 80-year highs.
"With such a massive decline in such a short period of time, I can definitely see the argument in saying, we oversold," said Watson. "Which means, in all likelihood, when you bounce back up you tend to overshoot to the upside. And I don’t know where this shakes out."
April bullion gained $6.90 to US$1,241.50 an ounce and the gold sector was ahead 1.3 per cent.
The base metals sector was ahead 0.8 per cent as March copper was off a penny at $2.59 a pound. Prices dipped amid data showing Chinese imports tumbled 19.7 per cent in January from a year earlier on top of a decline of 2.4 per cent in December. Exports dropped 3.2 per cent year on year, compared with a 9.7 per cent rise in December.
However, analysts pointed out that China's trade figures early in the year are often volatile because companies rush to fill orders before shutting down for the Lunar New Year, which falls in January or February.
Chinese demand for commodities has cooled as economic growth has slowed.
Decliners were led by telcos, down one per cent. Other sectors pulling the TSX down included the consumer staples and industrials groups.