By Cameron French
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index fell for the first time in four sessions on Thursday as energy and mining stocks were hurt by declining prices and weak investor sentiment, while BlackBerry (Toronto:BB.TO - News) plunged on doubts about the company's recovery plan.
BlackBerry ended the session down 7.4 percent at C$13.82, making it easily the weakest performer on the S&P/TSX composite index (.GPSTSE) as analysts called into question whether the company's new BlackBerry 10 smartphones can return it to long-term profitability.
But the main weight on the index came from the energy and mining sectors, down 0.68 percent and 0.97 percent respectively.
Both segments have been volatile this year and mining issues have been in near-steady decline, adding to the TSX's underperformance versus comparable U.S. indexes.
"Despite the vastly improved valuations from a year ago, investors are still not biting. There's no rush to get into the sectors here, materials and energy," said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver.
Gold stocks led the mining group lower as prices for the yellow metal weakened early in the session. Kinross Gold (Toronto:K.TO - News) dropped 3.2 percent to C$6.88, while copper miner First Quantum Minerals (Toronto:FM.TO - News) slid 1.8 percent to C$18.88.
Barrick Gold (Toronto:ABX.TO - News) gained 0.8 percent to C$25.00, but that followed an 8.7 percent drop on Wednesday after a Chilean court ordered the company to suspend construction of its massive Pascua-Lama project.
Weak commodity prices also hit the energy group as oil weakened after several organizations cut their global demand outlook for the commodity. Husky Energy (Toronto:HSE.TO - News) slid 1.8 percent to C$29.38, while sector heavyweight Suncor Energy (Toronto:SU.TO - News) retreated 1.5 percent to C$29.68.
All told, the TSX index fell 53.54 points, or 0.43 percent, to 12,481.37, with seven of the 10 TSX subgroups ending the session lower.
Coming into the session, the index had risen for three straight sessions, and it is still up more than 1 percent on the week. But that follows a sharp 3.3 percent drop last week that has the index barely above break-even on the year.
Meanwhile, U.S. indexes such as the S&P 500 (.SPX) have been in a near-steady rally since last November.
Picardo said the TSX may be running out of time to get its momentum back as the index tends trade sideways during the summer months, a phenomena traders often refer to as "sell in May and go away".
"Typically heading into late spring and early summer it's not the best time for the markets," he said.
"I think a lot hinges on what happens with the upcoming earnings season. The earnings bar has been lowered for the TSX companies."
The financial services group eased 0.39 percent, led by life insurer Manulife Financial (Toronto:MFC.TO - News), which fell 1.6 percent to C$14.42, and Bank of Nova Scotia (Toronto:BNS.TO - News), which declined 0.8 percent to C$57.90.
(Reporting By Cameron French; and Peter Galloway)