Toronto stocks closed modestly higher on Wednesday, but gave back most of the daily gains with a sharp retreat in the final half-hour of the session. Energy stocks led the market higher, but late weakness in the financial sector pared much of the day's advance.
The S&P/TSX Composite Index added 31.98 points or 0.34% to end the session at 9,279.15. The index had reached above 9,400 in early afternoon trading.
Energy stocks added 1.65% to lead the gainers. Encana (ECA.TO) climbed 4.2% after the company announced its first quarter net earnings increased to US$962 million or US$1.28 per share, up from US$93 million or US$0.12 per share in the year ago quarter.
Precision Drilling Trust (PD_UN.TO) added 6.1%. The company reported first quarter net earnings of C$57.42 million or C$0.30 per unit, a decrease of C$49 million or 46%, compared to C$106.27 million or C$0.84 per unit in the prior year quarter. Revenue for the quarter grew to C$448.45 million from C$342.69 million in the prior-year quarter.
Financials turned lower late in the session and dropped 1.2% for the day. National Bank (NA.TO) lost 3%, CIBC (CM.TO) declined 2.2% and Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) slipped 2% to lead the decliners.
In other corporate news, Teck Cominco Limited (TCK.B.TO) fell 3.3% after Credit Suisse downgraded shares to Neutral from Outperform, while increasing its price target to C$13 from C$10.
Fronteer Development Group (FRG.TO) added 2.3% as the company announced Troy Fierro has been appointed as Chief Operating Officer.
CanWest Global Communications (CGS.TO) surged 16.7% after the company said its lenders have agreed to extend the waiver of certain borrowing conditions until May 5.
Aastra Technologies Ltd. (AAH.TO) surged 34.7% after the company reported first quarter earnings that improved to $14.1 million or $1.02 per share, compared to $5.3 million or $0.33 per share in the same period in last year.
West 49 (WXX.TO) plunged 15.1% after the company reported a fourth quarter net loss of C$8.47 million or C$0.13 per share, compared to a net loss of C$1.22 million or C$0.02 per share in the comparable quarter of last year.
On the economic front, Canada's composite leading index fell 1.3% in March following a 1.4% drop in February, according to data released Wednesday morning. The data comes on the heels of Tuesday's surprise interest rate cut by the Bank of Canada.
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