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TSX ends flat amid new worries about oil

NWM on

By David Friend

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The Toronto stock market ended relatively flat on Tuesday as talks with Iran opened up the possibility that more crude oil could hit an already glutted market.

The S&P/TSX composite index inched back 5.95 points to close at 14,902.44.

The loonie improved after the release of Canadian gross domestic product data for January, which showed a smaller decline than economists had expected. The Canadian dollar finished the session up 0.17 of a U.S. cent at 78.95 cents.

Crude futures came under pressure as Iran, the United States and five other countries discussed a potential deal on Tehran’s nuclear program. An agreement could lift some international sanctions, which would likely increase crude exports from Iran.

The TSX energy sector slid 0.2 per cent as May crude settled $1.08 lower at $47.60 (U.S.) a barrel, with the key commodity losing more than 10 per cent in the quarter.

The metals and mining sector was hit the hardest, falling 2.9 per cent, as May copper prices backed off 4.2 cents to $2.74 (U.S.) a pound.

Teck Resources Ltd. slumped 11 per cent, the biggest drop since 2009. The shares soared 11 per cent Monday after people with knowledge of the matter said the Vancouver-based diversified miner was in talks to create one of the world’s largest copper producers in a union with Antofagasta. In separate statements after markets closed, Teck and Antofagasta denied they were currently in negotiations.

Corus Entertainment Inc. retreated 3.1 per cent. Barclays Investment Bank analyst Phillip Huang cut his rating for the stock to underweight, the equivalent of sell. The media company will come under pressure against increasing competition from online streaming services as well as coming regulatory changes in Canada that will unbundle cable television channels.

TSX financials was one of the few sectors to move higher, rising one per cent, with all of the big bank stocks gaining traction.

Traders wrapped up the quarter and looked towards the start of first-quarter earnings in the United States, which are widely expected to disappoint.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 200.19 points to 17,776.12, while the Nasdaq dropped 46.55 points to 4,900.89. The S&P 500 lost 18.35 points to 2,067.89.

With investors restraining their expectations, financial results could actually look better than anticipated, suggested Ben Jang, portfolio manager at Nicola Wealth Management in Vancouver.

“We’re in this scenario where there’s room to beat on the upside,” he said.

“People have set the bar quite a bit lower, so it’s a bar that’s achievable.”