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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index advanced on Monday as a surge in shares of gold producers and smartphone-maker BlackBerry (BB.TO), which said it was exploring strategic alternatives, helped offset declines in the financial and energy sectors.
Investors also followed data showing Japan's economic growth slowed more than expected in the second quarter, a third straight quarter of expansion but below market expectations.
Bullion rose almost 2 percent to a near three-week high as strong Chinese gold consumption and an inflow to gold-backed exchange-traded funds provided support. Gold miners rose more than 5 percent. <GOL/>
Improving economic data from China and other parts of the world has in recent weeks driven up the prices of badly hit commodities.
"We are heading into a time of the year when gold is seasonally strong," said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver. "It could imply that gold stocks could have more room to move up in the near term."
"One would have to be very brave or foolhardy to go out and say that gold stocks have absolutely bottomed, but you do get a sense that the sector may have seen its lows for the year," he added.
BlackBerry said it has set up a committee to look at its options, including joint ventures, partnerships or a sale of the company. Shares of the smartphone maker jumped 10.8 percent.
"Somewhere along the way, somebody will be interested in either becoming an owner of BlackBerry or a partner with BlackBerry," said Fred Ketchen, director of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.
"Hopefully, the committee will be able to put a little bit of vigor into the company."
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 52.14 points, or 0.42 percent, 12,594.27.
The index is barely up since the start of the year, but market analysts say that rising global demand for commodities could boost sentiment for Canadian equities.
"The tendency of investors to focus on global economic fundamentals as we ride into the end of the year cannot be underestimated," Picardo said. "If the global economy continues to do what it's been doing recently, that's bound to help the TSX."
While six of the 10 main sectors on the index were lower, gains in the materials and information technology groups helped keep the index in positive territory.
The jump in gold miners pushed the materials sector up 4.2 percent.
BlackBerry jumped to C$11.13, lifting the information technology sector 2.2 percent.
But financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, were down 0.2 percent, with Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) losing 0.6 percent to C$63.33.
Shares of energy producers declined 0.6 percent, mirroring a decline in the price of oil. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO) was down 1.1 percent at C$31.07.
Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Galloway