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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index pushed to new highs for the fourth time in five sessions on Tuesday, helped by rises in the shares of energy companies, railways and some banks.
Canadian National Railway, the country's biggest railway, was the index's major positive force, up 2 percent at C$74.39, after it reported record quarterly freight volumes after the bell on Monday and lifted its 2014 financial forecasts.
The series of record highs on the Toronto stock market has spurred some investors to point to stretched valuations, but others counter that earnings justify the optimism and that bargains can still be found in unloved but solid names.
"I'm very happy and I continue to find lots of opportunities and ideas each and every day," said Barry Schwartz, a portfolio manager at Baskin Financial.
"Just because the market is at a fresh high doesn't mean you can't find stocks that are near their 52-week lows, or stocks that haven't participated in the rally," he said, pointing to Rogers Communications Inc and Cineplex Inc as examples of unexciting stocks with good prospects that he and his firm hold.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended up 65.14 points, or 0.43 percent, at 15,315.13, a record closing high. The day's high, 15,343.51, was a record intraday high.
John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada, credited the continuation of the U.S. Federal Reserve's stimulative quantitative easing (QE) program for the strength of global financial markets.
"Markets are trading on the upper end of their valuations. And that's a reflection of optimism about the continuation of QE," he said. "Some of the oils are among the big traders, they're looking a little bit better. The oil price is $102-plus." In the oil and gas group, Suncor Energy Inc gained 0.8 percent to C$44.94, and Canadian Natural Resources was up 1 percent at C$48.96. With trading volumes light, Ing said the market's moves shouldn't be studied too closely. "It's a very listless week; that's what it's turning out to be."
Major gold miners were among the heaviest weights on the index, with Goldcorp Inc off 1.2 percent at C$29.48, and Barrick Gold Corp down 1.5 percent at C$20.21 as the spot price of bullion slipped. [GOL/]
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc dropped 2.4 percent to C$131.48 as its acquisition target Allergen asked for more transparent reports on Valeant's business.
Bank of Nova Scotia was 0.7 percent higher at C$73.32 and Bank of Montreal added 0.6 percent to C$81.90.
Editing by Chizu Nomiyama; and Peter Galloway