TORONTO - The Toronto stock market gave up early solid gains to close lower Friday as traders increasingly nervous about the future of the eurozone reduced exposure ahead of the Victoria Day long weekend.
Facebook’s debut as a public company had helped overshadow news out of Europe, at least temporarily.
Facebook started trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market with great fanfare late in the morning and an initial public offering price of US$38. It closed at $38.23 after going as high as $45.
The S&P/TSX composite index slipped 50.04 points to 11,280.64 as prices for oil and copper hit fresh multi-month lows and worries about eurozone banks pushed bank stocks lower. The TSX Venture Exchange was off 0.2 of a point to 1,227.88.
The pessimistic mood on markets sent the TSX tumbling 3.54 per cent this week, leaving the market about 1,000 points or 8.5 per cent just from the beginning of this month to its lowest level since last October.
The Toronto Stock Exchange is closed for holiday Monday, but U.S. markets are open.
The Canadian dollar lost ground amid lower commodities and data that showed that inflation was slightly higher in April.
The commodity-sensitive loonie lost 0.17 of a cent to 97.96 cents US as Statistics Canada said that Canada's annual inflation rate rose to two per cent in April, from 1.9 per cent the previous month.
The loonie has lost about three and a half US cents this month as tension over Greece sent traders to the safe haven status of U.S. Treasuries and away from riskier assets such as commodities and resource-based currencies such as the Canadian dollar.
"Certainly, there is a very high level of uncertainty that continues to be manifested in extremely high cash levels," said Robert Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.
"I think a lot of people feel that (they're) only getting a per cent in cash and that’s fully taxable. So yes, (they're) losing ground against inflation but maybe (they feel) that is the best option given what else is going on."
U.S. markets were negative at the end of a bruising week.
The Dow industrials dropped 73.11 points to 12,369.38.
The Nasdaq composite index declined 34.9 points to 2,778.79 and the S&P 500 index faltered by 9.64 points to 1,295.22.
The energy sector maintained a gain of 0.2 per cent as the June crude contract gave up early gains to move down $1.08 to US$91.48, its lowest level since the end of October. Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) gained 19 cents to C$29.95.
And the June bullion contract was ahead $17 to US$1,591.90 after hitting its lowest close since last July on Wednesday. The TSX global gold sector ran up about 0.75 per cent and Agnico Eagle Mines (TSX:AEM) rose 36 cents to $36.97.
But the base metals component gave back 0.4 per cent as July copper dipped one cent to US$3.47 a pound, levels last seen in January. HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) climbed 16 cents to $8.38 while Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) lost 60 cents to $29.45.
Worries about eurozone banks sent the financials sector down 0.82 per cent. Royal Bank (TSX:RY) fell 26 cents to $51.70.
Investors Group, which is part of IGM Financial (TSX:IGM) and the Power group of companies, says it will reduce the management fees it charges on many of its products, starting in July. Investors Group will reduce its management fees by up to 0.4 per cent per year and adds the reductions will affect about two-thirds of the funds it offers. IGM shares slipped $1.11 to $40.45.
There were plenty of negative developments in the eurozone to fret over at the end of the trading week.
Ratings agency Moody’s Investor Services downgraded 16 Spanish banks Thursday as they face a rising tide of bad loans linked to Spain’s recession, a gloomy real estate market and high unemployment.
Spain's central bank said Friday that the level of bad loans on the books of the country’s banks has risen to an 18-year high.
The nervousness about Spain’s banks comes as the eurozone financial crisis intensifies. Political turmoil in Greece has increased the likelihood that it could leave the 17-country monetary union, a move that could have ripple effects throughout Europe and the world’s financial markets. Greeks go back to the polls June 17 after an election May 6 proved inconclusive.
There are concerns that parties campaigning for an end to the austerity measures that secured vital bailouts will be in a stronger position after the vote.
Depositors have also been pulling their funds out of Greek banks. People fear the country’s financial sector might collapse if Greece left the eurozone and that their savings would become worthless if the country started using a substantially devalued new currency, such as the drachma.
"People are getting pretty nervous," added Gorman, "because if a new Greek government were to determine that they’re not going to be part of the (eurozone) going forward, and hence don’t use the currency, well how much would a new drachma be worth? So people are withdrawing euros."