By John Tilak
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was little changed on Friday as shares of energy producers got a boost from higher oil prices, offsetting a decline in the mining-heavy materials sector.
Worries about instability in Ukraine helped lift oil prices after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he wanted better ties with the West but fiercely criticized U.S. policy in the region.
Investors also digested data that showed Canada's annual inflation rate rose to the central bank's 2 percent target in April for the first time in two years.
The Toronto stock market's benchmark index is up about 8 percent this year, benefiting from a rebound in its natural resource sectors.
"Energy shares have benefited from higher oil prices and the falling Canadian dollar," said Philip Petursson, managing director, portfolio advisory group, at Manulife Asset Management. "We're still in the early innings of the potential (for the energy sector)."
Petursson said that investor appetite for Canadian equities is increasing. "We'll see a modest reacceleration of earnings in the second quarter, and that will help drive the market higher."
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index <.GSPTSE> closed up 5.81 points, or 0.04 percent, at 14,708.10. Seven of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.
Shares of energy producers added 0.1 percent. Among them, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd climbed 0.7 percent to C$44.69, and Inter Pipeline Ltd rose 1.4 percent to C$31.60.
The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, slipped 0.3 percent. Goldcorp Inc shed 1 percent to C$26.62, and Potash Corp gave back 0.1 percent to C$39.50.
(Editing by Peter Galloway)