(Adds strategist comment, updates prices to close)
* TSX ends down 63.03 points, or 0.40 percent, at 15,536.65
* Six of the TSX's 10 main groups move higher
* Decliners outnumber advancers by 2.4-to-1
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, March 2 Canada's benchmark stock index
fell on Thursday as gold miners and other resource stocks lost
ground along with lower commodity prices, while a major oil
producer surged on strong earnings.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, the country's
largest independent petroleum producer, jumped 5.3 percent to
C$40.50 after reporting quarterly profit that blew past
The surge helped the index's heavyweight energy group gain
0.2 percent even as oil prices fell after U.S. crude stocks hit
an all-time high and official data showed Russia did not cut oil
production in February.
The materials group, however, which includes precious and
base metals miners and fertilizer companies and accounts for 12
percent of the index, lost 3.7 percent as gold and copper prices
were pressured by a stronger U.S. dollar on growing expectations
the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this month.
"From a May hike or perhaps a June hike to now almost for
sure a March hike is the catalyst that has led to the weakness
in gold and obviously moved the gold miners," said Kevin
Headland, senior investment strategist at Manulife Investments.
Barrick Gold, the world's largest gold producer,
fell 4.4 percent to C$24.11, and gold royalty company
Franco-Nevada Corp lost 5.6 percent to C$82.08.
Gold prices were on track for their weakest session
since December, while prices for copper and a string of
other metals also fell.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
closed down 63.03 points, or 0.40 percent, at
Six of the index's 10 main groups were in positive
territory, but decliners outnumbered advancers by a 2.4-to-1
Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada's second-largest
lender, 0.8 percent to C$68.98 even as a strong performance in
both the United States and Canada helped it close off bank
earnings season with quarterly earnings modestly ahead of market
In the past week, some major Canadian banks have reported
quarterly earnings that handily beat forecasts, including Bank
of Montreal which on Tuesday posted a profit that
smashed market expectations.
The financials group was barely higher overall.
First Capital Realty Inc declined 3.3 percent to
C$20.36 after a shareholder said it would sell 9 million of the
retail property developer's shares.
The Canadian economy grew at a faster pace than expected in
the final quarter of last year, lifted by consumer spending and
a rebound in activity in the housing market, while imports
tumbled, data from Statistics Canada showed.
(Editing by W Simon and James Dalgleish)