CANADA STOCKS-TSX hits highest level in nearly a month

Mon Apr 30, 2012 4:56pm EDT
 
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* TSX up 54.94 pts, or 0.45 pct, at 12,292.69
    * Highest close since April 3;down 0.8 pct in April
    * Energy gains offset material losses
    * Higher natural gas prices boost energy shares
    * Soft data revives global growth fears

    By Jon Cook	
    TORONTO, April 30 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index
finished at its highest level in nearly a month on Monday as
higher U.S. natural gas prices boosted energy shares and offset
losses from materials after weak U.S. and Europe data heightened
global growth fears.	
    Energy issues shrugged off lower oil prices, climbing 1.5
percent as U.S. natural gas production in February fell slightly
from January's record-high according to government data on
Monday, stirring expectations that an over supplied gas market
might finally tighten and help pull up historically low prices.
 	
    "That might explain the outperformance of the energy
sector," said Marc-Andre Robitaille, president and portfolio
manager at Robitaille Asset Management.	
    Gains were led by Canadian Natural Resources, up 3
percent at C$34.32, Enbridge, which rose 2.2 percent to
C$41.39 and Encana Corp, Canada's largest gas producer,
up 2.5 percent at C$20.69.	
    Robitaille said energy stocks were also likely helped by
expectations of solid earnings from Canada's top oil and gas
producer Suncor Energy, which was due to report its
first-quarter results after close on Monday. Suncor shares rose
3.1 percent to C$32.63.	
    "People are probably buying Suncor today either short
covering before the numbers or in anticipation of
better-than-expected numbers," said Robitaille.	
    He added good earnings last week from competitors Imperial
Oil and Cenovus have helped cheer shareholders
after the energy sector has underperformed the broader index so
far this year.	
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 finished up 54.94 points, or 0.45 percent, at
12,292.69, its highest close since April 3. It was its fourth
straight positive session.	
    However, the TSX still finished down for the second
consecutive month, falling 0.8 percent in April. 	
    On Monday, seven of 10 main sectors in the index were
higher. Heavily-weighted materials, down 0.25 percent, pared
gains as commodities slumped after data showed Spain sank into
recession and the U.S. economy showed signs of slowing.
 	
    Goldcorp Inc was among the most influential
decliners, sliding 1.4 percent to C$37.83 as bullion prices
slipped after four straight sessions of gains. 	
    Goldcorp's shares were further pressured after Canada's No.
2 gold miner said environmental permit approval for its El Morro
copper-gold project was suspended by the Supreme Court of Chile.
 	
    Weak North American data also hurt risk sentiment. A key
gauge of business activity in the U.S. Midwest slowed more than
expected in April, falling to its lowest since November 2009, a
report showed on Monday. 	
    "The Chicago PMI was down quite a bit, and that might be
spooking some people," said Philip Petursson, part of the
portfolio advisory group at Manulife Asset Management. "It means
we're expanding at a much slower pace."   	
    In Canada, data revealed the economy unexpectedly declined
0.2 percent in February from January, led by temporary closures
in mining and other goods-producing industries. 	
    "It's not clear that we're out of the woods and we're going
to have a long period of steady economic growth and steady
market performance," said Robitaille.	
    In individual company news, Research In Motion's 
shares rose 2.5 percent to C$14.13 ahead of the start of the
BlackBerry maker's annual BlackBerry World event in Orlando,
Florida this week. At the three-day event RIM will hand out a
prototype BlackBerry 10 device for developers to test their
software applications.