By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended barely lower on Friday as bank stocks pulled back with lower bond yields after weak inflation data and energy stocks shrugged off an oil slide to notch gains while SNC-Lavalin Group Inc (Toronto:SNC.TO - News) rose on an acquisition move.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index (.GSPTSE) ended down 11.08 points, or 0.07 percent, at 15,614.48. It gained 0.5 percent on the week.
The commodity-rich exchange was boosted by a 0.7 percent rise in energy stocks in the face of a sharp selloff in crude prices, with Suncor Energy Inc (Toronto:SU.TO - News) up 0.7 percent to C$40.94 and Cenovus Energy (Toronto:CVE.TO - News) adding 2.4 percent to C$14.18.
"In the near term we quite like energy," said Mike Archibald, associate portfolio management at AGF Investments, pointing to expectations of solid earnings growth versus year-ago comparisons and recent outsized stock weakness versus oil's fall.
"On the longer-term trends, where all the super majors seem to be leaving the Canadian marketplace, that does give us some cause for concern," he added.
BP Plc (LSE:BP.L - News) is considering the sale of its stakes in three Canadian oil sands projects, sources told Reuters, following similar exits from ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP - News) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L).
SNC-Lavalin gained 2.3 percent to C$54.27 after the engineering and construction company said on Thursday it would move ahead with a planned purchase of Britain's WS Atkins Plc (:ATKW.L) for C$3.6 billion ($2.67 billion).
"It's a good deal, certainly very accretive," Archibald said.
Shares in Home Capital Group (Toronto:HCG.TO - News), Canada's biggest non-bank mortgage lender, rebounded 8.7 percent to C$19.25 after a steep decline on Thursday as the company said it would defend itself against allegations by regulators that it withheld information about fraud by mortgage brokers.
The broader financials group fell 0.5 percent as bond yields slipped. Canada's annual inflation rate cooled more than expected in March, underscoring expectations that any interest rate hike would be a long way off.
Seven of the index's 10 main groups fell, although advancers slightly outnumbered decliners overall.
(Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Chizu Nomiyama)