TORONTO - The Toronto Stock market closed slightly lower on Wednesday as concerns about Europe remained in the spotlight ahead of the reopening of banks in Cyprus and the euro hitting a four-month low.
The S&P/TSX composite index ended down 6.73 points to 12,699.65, while the TSX Venture Exchange gained 1.76 to 1,097.79.
Europe's main currency fell after efforts to form a coalition government in Italy were abandoned by Democratic party leader Pier Luigi Bersani.
The euro was down 0.88 of a cent to US$1.2773 at mid-morning, according to the Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO).
Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar fell 0.01 of a cent to 98.38 cents US after Statistics Canada reported that Canada's annual inflation rate jumped more than expected in February to 1.2 per cent.
Banks in Cyprus were set to open for the first time in more than a week on Thursday following a shutdown and international bailout agreement that calls for large bank deposits to be taxed heavily to help pay for the rescue.
Cyrpiots will only be allowed to withdraw 300 euros ($383) in cash each day when the country's banks open, while credit or debit card payments abroad will be capped at 5,000 euros a day, the state news agency said.
On the TSX, financial stocks were the biggest drag, falling 0.9 per cent, with Royal Bank (TSX:RY) losing 77 cents to $60.71.
In commodities, June bullion rose $9.90 to US$1,607.20 an ounce, as the TSX gold sector moved higher. The May contract, which traded with less volume, ended $10.50 higher to $1,606.20.
May copper was unchanged at US$3.44 a pound.
Energy stocks dipped 0.16 per cent as the May crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 24 cents to US$96.58 a barrel.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials was down 33.49 points at 14,526.16. The Nasdaq rose 4.04 points to 3,256.52 and the S&P 500 index fell 0.92 points to 1,562.85.
In corporate developments, Niko Resources Ltd. (TSX:NKO) said it was in advanced talks to sell certain as non-core assets for $157 million. The Calgary-based oil and gas producer active in Asia and elsewhere says it hopes to sign definitive agreements with two separate purchasers by the end of April. Its shares rose 10 per cent, or 55 cents, to $5.82.
Investors received diverging opinions about Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) from two major proxy advisory firms. Glass, Lewis & Co. LLC has recommended that its clients vote for all 12 of nominees put forward by the fertilizer company, while Institutional Shareholder Services said they should vote for two of five alternative nominees proposed by dissident shareholder Jana Partners. Agrium shares fell 72 cents to $99.69.
Shares in specialty food company Premium Brands Holdings Corp. (TSX:PBH) stock rose 46 cents to $18.13 after it increased its quarterly dividend 6.3 per cent to 31 cents per share.
A letter about Suncor (TSX:SU) is being signed by 11 groups and sent to the Alberta government over their concerns about a waste-water spill at a Suncor oilsands plant. The groups — representing the environment, First Nations and landowner associations — are demanding more information about the leak.
Suncor has said it doesn't know exactly what's in the waste water or how much of it spilled at its base plant north of Fort McMurray. Its shares lost 33 cents to $30.40.
Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (TSX:CP) shares were 44 cents lower to $129.06 after a train carrying crude oil derailed in western Minnesota, according to officials. The train spilled 20,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil when at least three cars of the 14 that were derailed.
Antrim Energy Inc. (TSX:AEN) shares were cut in less than half after the company announced larger quarterly and annual losses. The company's stock closed down 20 cents at 19 cents.