TSX Falls as Miners Drag; Jobs Data on Tap

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January 4, 2013 4:55 PM EST

Canada's main stock index fell on Thursday, as lower metal prices pressured mining stocks, while investors cashed in after Wednesday's rally and positioned before Friday's North American employment data.

"This is a little bit of a reflex back from what was an exceptionally strong day in the markets yesterday," said Craig Fehr, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri, referring to the prior session's climb to a nine-month high.

The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, slumped 2.75 percent. Eight of the 10 biggest drags on the index were miners. Goldcorp Inc led with a 4.68 percent fall to C$35.22. Barrick Gold Corp slid 2.85 percent to C$34.08.

Gold prices fell more than 1 percent on signs Federal Reserve officials are increasingly worried about the risks of the central bank's asset purchases on financial markets, reducing bullion's appeal as a hedge against inflation.

Copper prices also eased as the dollar firmed on worries about new budget battles between U.S. lawmakers in the wake of the "fiscal cliff" deal.

U.S. President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans face even bigger budget battles in the next two months after a hard-fought "fiscal cliff" deal narrowly averted potentially devastating austerity measures in the way of tax increases and spending cuts.

"The next battle is going to be the debt ceiling, and then after that it's going to be the sequester. The debt ceiling debate especially sounds like it's going to be fairly nasty," said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE gave back 70.33 points, or 0.56 percent, to finish at 12,470.44. Five of the 10 main sectors of the index were in negative territory.

"It's largely a broad-based pullback as investors take positions ahead of what's likely to be a charged employment report tomorrow," said Fehr, adding that investors were also positioning portfolios "ahead of what's likely going to an interesting year in markets."

Losses were modestly tempered by slight gains in the financial and energy groups -- two index heavy-weights that make up more than 50 percent of the TSX.

Financials were up 0.12 percent. Manulife Financial Corp was the most influential gainer, adding 1.98 percent to close at C$13.94, while Toronto Dominion Bank gave back 0.99 percent to end at C$82.37.

Energy stocks managed to eke out a 0.06 percent gain. Canadian Natural Resources was up 1.13 percent at C$29.54, while Encana Corp added 1.45 percent to C$80.80. Oil prices eased after hitting 11-week highs earlier, as profit-taking and Fed minutes weighed.

In company news, Reitmans Canada Ltd was down 4.16 percent at C$11.98 after the apparel retailer reporter lower sales.

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