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Canadian Stocks Decline as Japanese Nuclear Crisis Intensifies

Canadian stocks fell for a third day, led by banks and uranium producers, after the U.S. reported housing starts declined to the least since April 2009 and the Japanese nuclear crisis continued.

Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s largest lender by assets, dropped 0.9 percent after U.S. building permits slumped to a record low in February. Cameco Corp., the world’s second-largest uranium producer, lost 8.2 percent after the International Atomic Energy Agency said four nuclear units in Japan have core damage. Silver reseller Silver Wheaton Corp. retreated 2.4 percent as precious-metals producers fell.

The Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index decreased 22.14 points, or 0.2 percent, to 13,524.82. The index had jumped as much as 1 percent and declined as much as 0.9 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 dropped as investors sold precious metals to raise cash as equity markets dipped after the March 11 earthquake in Japan.

“Front and center is the devastation and uncertainty in Japan, but you’ve also got ongoing instability in the Middle East; you’ve got continued issues with sovereign credit in Europe,” said Murray Leith, who helps manage about C$6.5 billion as a money manager at Odlum Brown Ltd. in Vancouver. “There’s some nervousness, some jumpiness.”

Banks Slide

The five largest Canadian banks declined after the U.S. Commerce Department said housing starts retreated 23 percent to a 479,000 annual rate. Economists had forecast a figure of 566,000, according to the median of 74 estimates in a Bloomberg survey.

Royal Bank lost 0.9 percent to C$59.06. Toronto-Dominion Bank, the parent of Portland, Maine-based TD Bank NA and Cherry Hill, New Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp Inc., decreased 0.7 percent to C$82.72. Bank of Nova Scotia, Canada’s No. 3 lender by assets, slipped 1.1 percent to C$57.61.

Uranium-mining companies fell for a third day as the nuclear crisis in Japan jeopardized a renaissance in nuclear power. Gregory B. Jaczko, the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told a Congressional committee that no water remains in the spent-fuel pool at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Extending Drop

Cameco Corp., the world’s second-largest uranium producer, declined 8.2 percent to C$29.43 to extend its weekly drop to 19 percent. Uranium One Inc., a mining company controlled by Moscow-based ARMZ Uranium Holding, slumped 5.4 percent to C$3.52 for a 41 percent plunge on the week.

Mantra Resources Ltd., a uranium producer based in Perth, Australia, tumbled 33 percent to C$4.70 after ARMZ said it wants to renegotiate its A$1.2 billion ($1.18 billion) deal to buy the company.

Westshore Terminals Investment Corp., which owns a coal-storage and loading facility on the Pacific Ocean, slumped 6.3 percent, the most since July 2009, to C$22.56. Japan is the largest buyer of Canadian coal exports, according to Statistics Canada.

Precious-metals producers declined as gold and silver retreated in electronic trading after market close in New York.

Mining Shares

Silver Wheaton decreased 2.4 percent to C$38.12. Kinross Gold Corp., Canada’s third-largest gold producer, slipped 1.6 percent to a 27-month low of C$14.29. Eastern Platinum Ltd., which mines in South Africa, sank 7.8 percent to a six-month low of C$1.31 as the metal extended its monthly decline to 6.4 percent.

Semafo Inc., which mines gold in Africa, rose 5.5 percent from a seven-month low to C$8.52. The company is scheduled to release fourth-quarter financial results today.

Most S&P/TSX energy companies advanced as oil climbed on speculation the unrest in Bahrain may spread to Saudi Arabia.

Imperial Oil Ltd., Canada’s second-largest energy company, increased 2.1 percent to C$50.05 for its first gain in eight days. EnCana Corp., the country’s biggest natural gas producer, climbed 2.2 percent to C$32.13. Oilfield-services provider Pason Systems Inc. surged 6 percent to C$14.75.

Insurance holding company Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. gained 2.4 percent to C$360.01 after Moody’s Investors Service raised its senior unsecured debt rating to Baa3 from Ba1.

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