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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended slightly higher on Thursday as stronger miners and financials offset weak energy shares, and as Research In Motion RIM.TO rose on market speculation the BlackBerry maker had hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to explore strategic options.
Markets were relieved after Spain sold twice as much three-year debt as it needed and Italy paid less than it did a month ago on one-year securities at the countries' first auctions of 2012 as cheap money lent to banks by the ECB in December fueled demand for shorter-term debt. <GVD/EUR>
The news helped to boost financials and commodities, including base metals and gold, though energy shares were later hit by falling oil and gas prices. <MET/L> <GOL/> <O/R> <NGA/CAN>
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended up 13.38 pts, or 0.11 percent, at 12,274.32, its second straight day of gains in a very narrow range.
Among the most influential gainers, Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) climbed 0.9 percent to C$77.70, Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) rose 1.1 percent to C$52.20, Goldcorp (G.TO) added 1.5 percent to C$46.78 and First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) advanced 4 percent to C$23.30.
"You had quite successful bond auctions both in Italy and in Spain, where the yields were below previous auctions, number one, and secondly the bonds were oversubscribed several times, so you had very healthy demand and at lower yields," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.
"So that provides a little better environment and takes a little pressure off the whole sovereign debt crisis that we're all so familiar with."
Markets also reacted positively to comments by the president of European Central Bank and lower inflation data in China, raising hopes of a shift toward easing policy and supporting growth.
Weighing on confidence was U.S. data that showed retail sales rose at the weakest pace in seven months in December, while first-time claims for jobless benefits moved higher last week, signs the economic recovery is shaky despite a recent pick-up in growth.
"For the past couple of months it's been negative news out of Europe and positive news from the (U.S.) economic front," said Kate Warne, market strategist at Edward Jones. "It's an unusual reversal of the normal sources of good and bad news.
"The tension between the two is likely to keep stocks volatile and to keep the indices bouncing around zero."
In individual company news, RIM, which has been the target of a stream of takeover talk as its market valuation has crawled along at multi-year lows, rallied 5.5 percent to C$16.80.
On the downside, Enbridge was the heaviest laggard, down 2.1 percent at C$36.04 amid hearings into its proposed C$5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline project from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast.
Additional reporting by Jon Cook; editing by Rob Wilson