FILE PHOTO - A screen shows a business television channel as Canada's main stock index, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index, rose to a record high in late morning trade in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 7, 2021.
FILE PHOTO - A screen shows a business television channel as Canada's main stock index, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index, rose to a record high in late morning trade in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 7, 2021. Reuters / CARLOS OSORIO

Canada's main stock index inched lower on Friday as energy stocks tracked weaker crude prices, while investors remained cautious on developments around the Russia-Ukraine standoff.

At 9:52 a.m. ET (14:52 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 1.28 points, or 0.1%, at 21,162.41.

The energy sector dropped 2.02%, as oil prices extended losses and were heading for a weekly fall as the prospect of increased Iranian oil exports eclipsed fears of potential supply disruption resulting from the Russia-Ukraine crisis. [O/R]

Meanwhile, investors remained cautious on the fluid political situation in Ukraine as markets were caught between optimism of a diplomatic resolution next week and reports of evacuation of the breakaway region's residents amid rising shelling.

"There remain all kinds of threats, accusations, speculations, rumors and denials and there's so many different conflicting agendas that nobody really knows what to make of and that's part of the problem it's hard for investors to sit through all of this," said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management.

"The question for today is whether given the current level of uncertainty, bargain hunters could be willing to step in ahead of a 3-day weekend or not."

The benchmark equity index could snap its three-week winning streak, as concerns around soaring inflation and geopolitical tensions have roiled market in recent days.

The materials sector, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, declined 0.2% as gold futures fell 0.1% to $1,898.3 an ounce. [GOL/]

On the economic front, Canadian retail sales most likely rose 2.4% in January from December, preliminary data from Statistics Canada showed, after a 1.8% decline in December.

Among individual shares, Air Canada gained 3.1% after the carrier reported a smaller fourth-quarter loss, powered by strong holiday demand.