January 3, 2017 / 9:45 PM / 8 months ago

CANADA STOCKS-TSX rises at start of 2017, touches 20-month high

(Adds portfolio manager quotes, details, Sun Life Financial; updates prices)

* TSX closes up 115.44 points, or 0.76 percent, at 15,403.03

* Index touches its highest intraday since April 2015

* Eight of the TSX's 10 main groups end higher

By Fergal Smith

TORONTO, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index rose on Tuesday, touching its highest intraday level in more than 20 months, as financial, gold and energy shares gained on the first trading day of 2017.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed up 115.44 points, or 0.76 percent, at 15,403.03. It earlier touched 15,450.27, its highest since April 27, 2015.

The index rallied 17.5 percent in 2016 after slumping 11.1 percent in the prior year, helped by a partial recovery in the price of oil.

"It all revolves around oil... I think that is going to be the question mark for 2017, if oil prices continue to move up," said Ian Nakamoto, equity specialist at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier, a division of Raymond James.

Oil prices retreated on Tuesday from early 18-month highs as the U.S. dollar rallied to its highest level since 2002 and traders took profits.

Still, the energy group rose 0.7 percent, with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd advancing 2.1 percent to C$43.70.

Banks and insurers gained as bond yields mostly climbed after positive U.S. data and upbeat economic reports from China and Europe.

Higher bond yields reduce the value of insurance companies' liabilities and increase net interest margins of banks.

Bank of Nova Scotia rose 1.3 percent to C$75.76 and Sun Life Financial Inc advanced 1.1 percent to C$52.10, while the overall financials group was up 0.8 percent.

Both financial and energy stocks can continue to do well as oil climbs to $60 by the end of the year, Nakamoto said.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 2.3 percent.

Goldcorp Inc advanced 3.3 percent to C$18.89, while gold prices rose to a near 3-week high.

Just two of the index's 10 main groups ended lower, with consumer staples falling 0.3 percent and utilities declining 0.7 percent.

The pace of growth in the Canadian manufacturing sector picked up slightly in December as new orders climbed to the highest level in two years and companies saw greater demand in the auto and energy sectors, data showed. (Additional reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)

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