Toronto stock index lower on sharp drop in gold prices as bullion

TORONTO — Canada’s largest stock index was relatively flat Monday as falling commodities prices outweighed gains in the health-care and consumer sectors.The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index shed 3.54 points to 15,316.02, with gold leading decliners.Bullion stocks lost an average of 0.97 per cent of their worth on the TSX, as the August gold contract declined $10.00 to US$1,246.40 an ounce.Oil and gas companies were also among the biggest losers on the commodity-heavy index, shedding an average 0.60 per cent of their worth.The price of oil inched forward Monday after plummeting to a 10-month low the week prior. The August crude contract rose 37 cents to US$43.38 per barrel.Canadian investment strategist Craig Fehr anticipates oil to remain at or below the US$50 a barrel mark and for gold to continue to experience some weakness, as data suggests inflation won’t spike higher in the near future.The performance of those two commodities will be closely tied to that of a large portion of the TSX, said Fehr, who works at Edward Jones in St. Louis.Meanwhile, Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl. (TSX:VRX) led the charge for the health-care sector, where stocks gained an average of 2.41 per cent.Shares of the Quebec-based drugmaker rose $1.68, or 8.03 per cent, to $22.61 after the pharmaceutical giant’s stock surged more than six per cent last week on news that prominent U.S. investor John Paulson had joined the company’s board of directors.In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 14.79 points to 21,409.55, while the S&P 500 edged up 0.77 of a point to 2,439.07. The Nasdaq composite fell 18.10 points to 6,247.15.The Canadian dollar was trading 0.17 of a U.S. cent higher than the average price of 75.54 cents US.Elsewhere in commodities, the July copper contract remained relatively unchanged at about US$2.63 a pound and the August natural gas contract rose 9.8 cents to roughly US$3.05 per mmBTU.Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter. read more