TSX hits highest level in nearly a month

Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:58pm EDT
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By Jon Cook

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index finished at its highest level in nearly a month on Monday as higher U.S. natural gas prices boosted energy shares and offset losses from materials after weak U.S. and Europe data heightened global growth fears.

Energy issues shrugged off lower oil prices, climbing 1.5 percent as U.S. natural gas production in February fell slightly from January's record-high according to government data on Monday, stirring expectations that an over supplied gas market might finally tighten and help pull up historically low prices.

"That might explain the outperformance of the energy sector," said Marc-Andre Robitaille, president and portfolio manager at Robitaille Asset Management.

Gains were led by Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote), up 3 percent at C$34.32, Enbridge (ENB.TO: Quote), which rose 2.2 percent to C$41.39 and Encana Corp (ECA.TO: Quote), Canada's largest gas producer, up 2.5 percent at C$20.69.

Robitaille said energy stocks were also likely helped by expectations of solid earnings from Canada's top oil and gas producer Suncor Energy (SU.TO: Quote), which was due to report its first-quarter results after close on Monday. Suncor shares rose 3.1 percent to C$32.63.

"People are probably buying Suncor today either short covering before the numbers or in anticipation of better-than-expected numbers," said Robitaille.

He added good earnings last week from competitors Imperial Oil (IMO.TO: Quote) and Cenovus (CVE.TO: Quote) have helped cheer shareholders after the energy sector has underperformed the broader index so far this year.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE finished up 54.94 points, or 0.45 percent, at 12,292.69, its highest close since April 3. It was its fourth straight positive session.   Continued...

A Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) logo is seen in Toronto November 9, 2007. REUTERS/Mark Blinch