March 5, 2014 / 1:59 PM / 4 years ago

Banks help push TSX higher despite Ukraine worry

A sign displaying TSX information is seen in Toronto November 20, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index rose slightly on Wednesday despite continued worry over the crisis in Ukraine and sluggish economic data from the United States, with advances in banks overcoming weakness in energy shares.

Russia rebuffed Western demands to withdraw its forces in Ukraine’s Crimea region to their bases on a day of high-stakes diplomacy in Paris aimed at averting the risk of war over Ukraine.

Data showed U.S. private employers adding fewer workers than expected in February and growth in the services sector hitting a four-year low.

Investors also digested news that the Bank of Canada had left its benchmark interest rate unchanged but continued to express concern about weak inflation.

The Toronto market’s benchmark index climbed for a third straight session on Wednesday, and has gained more than 5 percent so far this year.

“Sentiment is fairly good. Money is flowing into Canadian equities,” said Diana Avigdor, portfolio manager and head of trading at Barometer Capital Management. “Stocks are technically sound and have been exhibiting strength.”

Investors are showing a greater willingness to take on risk, she said, while adding that “it’s a slow process, and there’s still a lot of cash on the sidelines. People are not fully invested.”

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 14.31 points, or 0.10 percent, at 14,304.17. Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red.

Financials, the index’s most heavily weighted sector, climbed 0.5 percent. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) added 0.7 percent to C$72.34, and Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) rose 1 percent to C$63.72.

Gold-mining stocks also advanced, with Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) gaining 1 percent to C$30.34 and Eldorado Gold Corp ELD.TO adding 2.4 percent to C$7.72.

A selloff in the price of oil weighed on shares of energy producers. In the group, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO) lost 0.6 percent to C$40.70.

($1=$1.11 Canadian)

Editing by Peter Galloway

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