TORONTO, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Canada's main stock market started the week lower on Monday, as losses in Financial and Energy sectors outpaced gains in Materials stocks.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's benchmark Standard & Poor's/TSX Composite fell 48.17 points, or 0.31 percent to end the day at 15,442.32 points. Eight of the ten sub-groups ended the session lower.
The Financial and Energy groups had the biggest impact on the day, slipping 0.51 percent and 0.47 percent, respectively.
Financials lost ground on the day as the country' s top five banks and two largest insurers all retreated two days before the federal government will present their budget. No. 1 ranked Royal Bank of Canada saw shares drop 0.49 percent to 96.29 Canadian dollars (72.10 U.S. dollars), while No. 2 Toronto-Dominion Bank shares fell 0.68 percent to 65.60 Canadian dollars (49.12 U.S. dollars).
Meanwhile, insurers Manulife Financial Corporation and Sun Life Financial Inc. saw shares slide 0.50 percent to 24.01 Canadian dollars (17.98 U.S. dollars) and 0.69 percent to 48.93 Canadian dollars (36.64 U.S. dollars), respectively.
The TSX Energy group took a step back as the price of crude oil continues to slump. A barrel of Brent delivered in May inched down 0.10 percent to 51.67 U.S. dollars. Since Mar. 7, the benchmark crude oil has traded lower in London for nine of the last ten sessions for a combined loss of 7.55 percent.
Calgary-based Spartan Energy Corp. was the biggest contributor on the day, slipping 3.56 percent to 2.44 Canadian dollars (1.83 U.S. dollars) a share. With more than three million shares traded each, Imperial Oil Limited and Crescent Point Energy Corp. also had an impact in the group' s end result, slipping 0.41 percent and 0.21 percent, apiece.
The news was not all bad for the group, as Pengrowth Energy Corporation saw shares soar 7.46 percent to 1.44 Canadian dollars (1.08 U.S. dollars) after announcing the sale of Central Alberta properties to a private corporation for 180 million Canadian dollars. The deal is expected to close by June and will help Pengrowth pay off all of their remaining debt.
The remaining laggard groups on the day were: Health Care (1.08 percent), Telecommunications (0.87 percent), Consumer Staples (0.42 percent), Utilities (0.35 percent), Consumer Discretionary (0.25 percent), and Industrials (0.16 percent).
TSX Materials group was one of the two bright spots on the day, ascending 0.86 percent after the price of gold rose for a fourth straight day. The spot price of bullion gained 0.42 percent to 1,233.90 U.S. dollars an ounce.
Subsequently, shares of Barrick Gold, the world' s largest producer of gold, advanced 1.27 percent to 25.46 Canadian dollars (19.06 U.S. dollars). Meanwhile, Vancouver-based gold miner B2Gold Corp. saw shares jump 2.76 percent to 4.09 Canadian dollars (3.06 U.S. dollars) and was the third most active stock with more than 6.3 million shares exchanged.
Posting the strongest gains in the group was Toronto-based diamond miner Dominion Diamond Corporation, who saw shares rocket 23.16 percent to 16.27 Canadian dollars (12.18 U.S. dollars) after revealing that an all-cash offer was made by an American group at 13.50 U.S. dollars, a 36 percent premium to Friday' s closing price.
The only other sector to finish higher was Information Technology, inching up 0.03 percent.
On the economic front, Statistics Canada reported that wholesale trade in January unexpectedly surged 3.3 percent to a record 59.1 billion Canadian dollars (about 44.2 billion U.S. dollars). This month-over-month increase is the highest percentage jump since the 3.8 percent increase in November 2009.
Four of the seven industries moved up, led by motor vehicle (17.1 percent), personal and household goods (3.0 percent), farm product (0.9 percent), and food, beverage and tobacco (0.2 percent).
By region, six of the thirteen provinces and territories saw increases. Ontario, which accounts for more half of the total sales figure surged 6.0 percent to overcome the losses in smaller regions.
The Canadian dollar opened the week down 0.10 cents to close at 0.7488 U.S. dollars.