CANADA STOCKS-TSX hits 5-week high on surge in gold, U.S. data

Wed Mar 6, 2013 10:01pm GMT

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* TSX rises 95.92 points, or 0.75 percent, at 12,831.96
    * Eight of 10 main sectors advance
    * Materials group climbs 3.4 percent
    * Torstar shares fall nearly 12 percent after results

    By John Tilak
    TORONTO, March 6 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index hit a
five-week high Wednesday, with gold-mining shares leading the
way on higher bullion prices, and sentiment getting a boost from
U.S. economic data and central banker comments.
    Private employers in the United States, Canada's biggest
trade partner, hired more workers than expected in February, and
demand for a range of factory goods was solid in January.
 
    The U.S. Federal Reserve, in its Beige Book, said economic
growth continued to improve gradually in January and early
February as consumer spending picked up and the country's
battered housing market maintained a broad-based recovery.
    But analysts said the U.S. central bank did not seem to
suggest it was close to withdrawing monetary stimulus.
    "The market is being supported by expectations for continued
stimulus from central banks," said Fergal Smith, a managing
market strategist at Action Economics.
    Gold stocks, which tend to react positively to commentary
backing easy monetary policies, rallied the most and helped the
materials group climb 3.4 percent.
    "The materials sector has been beaten down. So it's more of
a corrective bounce," Smith said. "You could also point to
greater optimism because of the U.S. data or the Fed's Beige
Book, which was consistent with no change of policy."
    The materials group is down nearly 10 percent since the
start of the year and is the worst-performing sector.
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 unofficially closed up 95.92 points, or 0.75 percent,
at 12,831.96, after reaching 12,833.49, its highest level since
Jan. 30. Eight of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.
    In Canada, the central bank softened its stance on the need
for interest rate hikes on Wednesday, saying it will likely hold
its benchmark rate steady for "a period of time" but that its
next move would still probably be a hike rather than a cut.
 
    Central bankers around the world have been reiterating their
support for easy monetary policies, for now. 
    "No one is taking the punch bowl away yet," said Paul Hand,
managing director at RBC Capital Markets. "In the short term,
investors aren't worried about any dramatic shift in interest
rate policy or liquidity positions.
    "You've got the fragile economy in the U.S. and in Europe
you have an economy ranging from barely moving forward to still
looking for a bottom," he added.
    The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, was
aided by a 0.4 percent rise in gold prices. 
    Goldcorp Inc added 4.7 percent to C$34.44, and
Barrick Gold Corp was up 4.5 percent to C$30.61. 
    Energy shares gained almost 1 percent, with Suncor Energy
Inc rising 1.4 percent to C$31.28.
    In company news, Torstar Corp, publisher of the
Toronto Star, Canada's largest daily newspaper, cut 67 jobs and
said it would rein in costs in 2013. It reported a big drop in
quarterly profit and said the revenue outlook for its main media
business was uncertain. The stock shed nearly 12 percent to
C$7.00.
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