TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index edged higher for a third day in a row on Friday, lifted by bullish U.S. employment data and takeover speculation at grain handler Viterra VT.TO.
Viterra led the broader index higher and finished the day up 23.7 percent at C$13.58. The Regina, Saskatchewan-based company, Canada's biggest grain handler, said it had received expressions of interest from unnamed third parties on a possible takeover.
Neo Material Technologies NEM.TO soared 37.3 percent to C$10.94 after Molycorp MCP.N said it would buy the rare-earth processing company for C$1.3 billion.
"You've seen in very recent weeks some nice pick-up in merger activity. Corporate balance sheets are finally healthy enough and the confidence level is high enough for people to actually make the moves," said Rick Meslin, head of Canadian equities at UBS.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE finished the session up 41.69 points, or 0.33 percent, at 12,503.62, with nine of its 10 main sectors higher. The healthcare sector dropped 0.6 percent.
The index shed 1.1 percent for the week.
Other leading names on the upside in Toronto included Manulife Financial (MFC.TO), up 1.8 percent at C$12.22, and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO), up half a percent at C$82.09. Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) also climbed 0.5 percent to C$53.61.
Gold miners fell on lingering effects of a stronger U.S. dollar, said Meslin. Bullion initially tumbled on a stronger greenback and fading hopes of further U.S. monetary stimulus, but later reversed course to gain nearly 1 percent in heavy trading following an upbeat U.S. jobs report.
Market were supported by figures showing the U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate held at a three-year low of 8.3 percent. However, the gains were trimmed later in the session after the International Swaps and Derivatives Association said Greece had triggered an insurance payment on credit default contracts.
Investors took the Greek news largely in stride because the event was widely expected.
"I didn't get out of my chair and cheer; I didn't get out of my chair and cry either," said Fred Ketchen, director of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod of the largely lackluster trade that dominated most of the afternoon.
The U.S. jobs report overshadowed Canada's employment data, which showed the country unexpectedly failed to create any new jobs in February, continuing a trend of stalled employment despite signs of a healthy domestic economy and a comeback by the U.S. job market.
Editing by Rob Wilson