Canadian stocks swung between gains and losses as energy and fertilizer producers rose with the prices of oil and wheat while banks fell after U.S. building permits declined to a record low.
Suncor Energy Inc. (SU), Canada’s largest oil and gas producer, climbed 1.9 percent as violence escalated in Bahrain. Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. gained 2.5 percent as an index of commodities rallied after the biggest decline in four months yesterday on concern the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan will slash raw-material demand. Royal Bank of Canada (RY), the country’s largest lender by assets, dropped 1.3 percent.
The Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index increased 1.74 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 13,548.70 at 12:22 p.m. in Toronto. The index had jumped as much as 1 percent and declined as much as 0.3 percent earlier.
“The market really doesn’t like uncertainty,” said Jeff Bradacs, a Toronto-based senior investment analyst for a team at Manulife Asset Management that oversees C$1.7 billion ($1.7 billion). “Until we have clarity on Japan, I would expect the volatility to remain.”
The S&P/TSX had fallen 5 percent from March 4 to yesterday as the Thomson Reuters/Jefferies CRB Commodity Price Index dropped 6.8 percent. Crude oil retreated after surging to a 29- month high as civil war broke out in Libya. Gold and silver fell as investors sold precious metals to raise cash as equity markets dipped after the March 11 earthquake in Japan.
Oil gained today on concern the violence in Bahrain will spill into neighboring Saudi Arabia. Crude declined the most since Oct. 19 yesterday.
Suncor advanced 1.9 percent to C$42.72. Imperial Oil Ltd. (IMO), Canada’s second-largest energy company by revenue, increased 1.5 percent to C$49.75 for its first gain in eight days. EnCana Corp. (ECA), the country’s biggest natural gas producer, increased 2.2 percent to C$32.15 as the fuel climbed for a fourth day.
The five largest Canadian banks dropped after the U.S. Commerce Department said housing starts declined more than most economists estimated to the lowest level since April 2009.
Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s largest lender by assets, lost 1.3 percent to C$58.84. Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), the parent of Portland, Maine-based TD Bank NA and Cherry Hill New Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp, Inc., decreased 1.4 percent to C$82.15. Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS), Canada’s No. 3 lender by assets, slipped 1.1 percent to C$57.62.
Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC), the Toronto-based insurer with 120 life insurance sales offices in Japan, gained 1.7 percent to C$16.29 after tumbling 7.7 percent the previous two days. Peter A. Rozenberg, an analyst at UBS AG, raised his rating on the stock to “buy” from “neutral.”
Wheat rebounded from a four-month low on the Chicago Board of Trade. Japan is the second-biggest importer of U.S. wheat and, according to Statistics Canada, the No. 3 buyer of Canadian wheat.
Potash Corp. increased 2.5 percent to C$54.45. Agrium Inc. (AGU), Canada’s second-largest fertilizer producer, rose 1.5 percent to C$87.51. Viterra Inc. (VT), Canada’s biggest grain handler, gained 1.8 percent to C$10.92.
Uranium-mining companies fell for a third day as the nuclear crisis in Japan jeopardized a renaissance in nuclear power.
Cameco Corp. (CCO), the world’s second-largest uranium producer, declined 6.7 percent to C$29.93 to extend its weekly drop to 18 percent. Uranium One Inc. (UUU), a mining company controlled by Moscow-based ARMZ Uranium Holding, slumped 4.6 percent for a 41 percent plunge on the week.
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