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The close: TSX dips as energy rally tempers broad, mining-led losses

An oil pump jack pumps oil in a field near Calgary. Bond-rating service DBRS Inc. predicts that Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland will see resource revenues ‘modestly lower than planned.’

TODD KOROL/REUTERS

Canada's main stock index struggled to advance on Wednesday and ended nominally lower as higher crude prices fueled sharp gains by oil and gas companies, while cooling metal prices drove hefty declines in mining firms.

Oil prices rallied more than 2 per cent after the International Energy Agency (IEA) said the global crude surplus was beginning to shrink due in part to an output drop from key producers.

A stronger U.S. dollar weighed on metal prices, with gold falling to 1-1/2 week lows and copper sliding to three-week lows. Profit-taking, rising stocks in London Metal Exchange warehouses and nervousness about Chinese demand also contributed to lower copper prices.

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"There's two opposing forces, oils and metals. You have two of the largest sectors really pulling the TSX in opposite directions," said Kevin Headland, senior investment strategist at Manulife Investments.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index fell 16.6 points, or 0.11 per cent, to end at 15,126.81, with eight of the index's 10 main sectors ceding ground.

Headland expects the TSX to remain an underperformer among global indices this year and forecast underwhelming earnings growth in the third and forth quarters.

"The hurdle rate, or the barrier to success from last year's Q3, Q4 earnings is that much harder ... this year," said Headland.

Canadian Natural Resources rose 2.9 per cent to C$40.22 while Encana Corp jumped 6 per cent to C$12.42. The overall energy group rallied 2.5 per cent.

The influential financials group gained 0.2 per cent, though most individual advances were modest. Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd jumped 4.4 per cent to C$626.86.

The overall materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, fell 1.8 per cent. But losses were offset by Eldorado Gold's 15.8 per cent surge to C$2.79 after Greece said it would grant permits for its Olympias project this week.

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Teck Resources Ltd sank 5.4 per cent to C$26.73, while First Quantum Minerals Ltd fell 3.6 per cent to C$13.30.

Industrials lost 0.9 per cent, with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd shedding 2.2 per cent to C$191.67 after a price and ratings cut by National Bank of Canada. The Bank also trimmed its target price for Canadian National Railway, which retreated 1.6 per cent to C$98.06.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the TSX by 152 to 95, for a 1.60-to-1 ratio on the downside.

Five companies on the index saw new 52-week highs, while one hit a new 52-week low.

Wall Street hits record high - without help from Apple

Wall Street edged up to a record high on Wednesday as gains in consumer discretionary and energy stocks offset losses in technology heavyweight Apple Inc.

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Shares of Apple dropped 0.8 per cent on concerns that the company's newly launched iPhone X is too expensive and because its availability starting in November was later than expected. With the widely held stock up 37 per cent so far this year, some analysts said it was time to cash in gains.

"Apple to a certain extent is a 'sell the news' event," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York. "A great deal of expectation has been built into the stock."

Even with Apple's losses, the S&P 500, Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq all closed at record levels, helped by other consumer stocks.

The S&P energy index rose after the International Energy Agency said that a global surplus of crude was starting to shrink.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose rose 39.32 points, or 0.18 per cent, to 22,158.18 The S&P 500 edged upgained 1.89 points, or 0.08 per cent, to 2,498.37, and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.91 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 6,460.19.

The indexes have hit several records this year, despite setbacks caused by turmoil in the White House, the timing of U.S. interest rate hikes, doubts about President Donald Trump's ability to push through his pro-business reforms, and lately, tensions over a nuclear-weapons-capable North Korea.

The S&P 500, up 11.6 per cent in 2017, is trading at 17.6 times expected earnings, expensive compared with its 10-year average of 14.3, according to Thomson Reuters Datastream.

Shares of credit score provider Equifax tumbled 14.6 per cent and hit a more than 1-1/2-year low after an apology by company Chief Executive Richard Smith for a massive data breach failed to appease investors.

"Of course it should be getting pounded and the situation is only getting worse," said Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O'Neil Securities in New York. "They have a huge problem on their hands. The fact the (CEO) has been so cavalier – it took him five days to write a response – it's a disaster."

Target Corp rose 2.8 per cent after the retailer said it would hire 100,000 workers for the holiday season, 43 per cent more than last year.

Chevron Corp climbed 1.5 per cent, boosting the Dow, while a 1.7 per cent rise in Amazon.com Inc boosted the Nasdaq.

Nordstrom Inc gained 6.0 per cent after the company's founding family selected private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners to help take it private.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.10-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.20-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 31 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 103 new highs and 17 new lows.

About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, above the 5.8 billion 20-day average.

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