Canada Stocks Little Changed as Energy Gains Offset Banks

Canadian stocks were little changed, after the benchmark index declined for five straight days, as banks and gold companies slumped.

Royal Bank of Canada fell 0.5 percent after the government said it is examining whether the nation’s largest lender broke immigration rules by hiring foreign workers to replace domestic employees. Agrium Inc. (AGU) rose 1.5 percent after activist investor Jana Partners LLC said two of its nominees likely received enough votes to be elected to the company’s board. Barrick Gold Corp. and Goldcorp Inc. slid at least 0.9 percent as the metal slumped for the fourth time in five sessions.

The Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index (SPTSX) fell 2.87 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 12,328.98 at 12:41 p.m. in Toronto. The benchmark Canadian equity gauge fell 3.3 percent last week and is down 0.9 percent for the year. Trading volume was 14 percent higher than the 30-day average at this time of the day.

“All the banks in Canada have been relatively weak,” Ian Nakamoto, director of research with MacDougall MacDougall & MacTier Inc., said on the phone from Toronto. He helps manage about C$4 billion ($4 billion). “People are uncertain about Canadian housing and loan growth.”

Canada’s unemployment rate rose for the first time in five months and employment unexpectedly fell in March, data from Statistics Canada showed April 5, raising concern economic growth would slow.

Agrium, the Calgary-based fertilizer producer, added 1.5 percent to C$99.20. Jana Partners, the largest shareholder of Agrium, has been pushing for changes since May and proposed five nominees for 12 positions on the company board. Voting results are expected to be disclosed tomorrow.

Banks Fall

Financial firms fell for a fourth straight day as a group. Royal Bank (RY) dropped 0.5 percent to C$59.31, headed for its lowest close since December. The bank fired “dozens” of staff in its investors services group and replaced them with temporary foreign staff, the CBC television network reported on its website. One of the employees being replaced said the new workers were from India.

Diane Finley, Human Resources Minister, said it would be “unacceptable” to replace domestic employees with foreign workers.

Barrick Gold retreated 1 percent to C$26.86 and Goldcorp lost 0.9 percent to C$32.04. The metal’s price slid 0.2 percent to $1,572.40 as a stronger dollar reduced the appeal of gold as an alternative investment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric Lam in Toronto at elam87@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lynn Thomasson at lthomasson@bloomberg.net

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