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Canadian Stocks Still Higher But Well Off Earlier Gains; Financials Lead Gainers, Minors Lead Losers

Canadian stocks are up around two dozen points, but they have lost around half of the gains they had mid-morning with sectors mixed.

Financial stocks are best performers on a percentage basis, rising about 0.7% as a group. Healthcare stocks also are higher again today. Telecom and Utilities issues are also up.

Gold stocks are leading in the opposite direction, falling in value as traders look past precious metals in favor of riskier assets.

In individual company news, Agrium (AGU.TO, AGU) is up fractionally this afternoon with the agricultural processing company firing back at JANA Partners in an escalating proxy fight with the self-described value-oriented hedge fund.

Jana Partners wants AGU to spin off its farm retail division, cut costs, make better use of capital and add more relevant experience to its board. The company has scheduled its annual meeting for April 9 in Calgary, Alberta, where shareholders will decide the makeup of its board of directors.

In its latest response, AGU attacked JANA assertions the stock has underperformed its peers and the broader markets, calling the hedge fund's preferred "portfolio-weighted composite" an invalid way to assess the company, adding none of the 29 securities analyst now tracking AGU use that particular measure.

The company also said it began increasing its dividend in 2011, prior to when JANA stepped up its criticism of current management, as well as reminding shareholders of its plans to return about C$900 million of excess proceeds from its upcoming acquisition of the Agri Products business from Glencore through a new share-repurchase program.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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