CANADA STOCKS-TSX hits 2-mth high on ECB hopes, TMX shrs jump

Wed Jul 4, 2012 1:46pm EDT
 
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* TSX up 64.46 pts, or 0.5 pct, at 11,913.21
    * Hits highest level since May 4
    * Expectations of ECB rate cut boost financials
    * TMX Group up 3 pct after takeover bid approved

    By Jon Cook
    TORONTO, July 4 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index hit a
two-month high on Wednesday, led by financial shares, which
gained on hopes major central banks will provide more monetary
stimulus to help counter the drag from the euro zone crisis.
    The rise followed the Toronto Stock Exchange S&P/TSX
composite index's biggest single-day gain this year on
Tuesday, when hopes for easing by central banks outside of
Canada also drove the rally.
    But Wednesday's volumes were light with U.S. markets closed
for the Independence Day holiday and investors cautious ahead of
policy decisions from the European Central Bank and the Bank of
England on Thursday.
    "We have a lot of high hopes in the investment world that
central banks ride to the rescue as they have before," said John
Stephenson, senior vice president at First Asset Investment
Management Inc.
    The financial group led gains, rising 0.8 percent as
investors anticipated the ECB will cut rates and may also inject
fresh funds to help boost the region's struggling economy.
 
    Weak euro zone data on Wednesday added to expectations of a
rate cut. Activity in Germany's services sector unexpectedly
stagnated in June, while business expectations in France slumped
to the lowest level in three years. 
    Canada's major lenders were the main benefactors of the
central bank hopes, with Royal Bank of Canada climbing
1.6 percent to C$53.92, Bank of Nova Scotia rising 0.9
percent to C$53.82, and Toronto-Dominion Bank up 0.5
percent at C$80.15.
    Shares of TMX Group rose more than 3 percent to hit
four-year high of C$48.50 after Ontario's securities regulator
and Canada's Competition Bureau approved the C$3.8 billion
($3.75 billion) takeover of Canada's biggest stock exchange
operator.
    The approvals of the bid made by a group of domestic
financial institutions brought what has been a protracted
process close to final approval. 
    
    TRICAN SHARES DRAG
    Around 1:42 p.m. (1742 GMT), the TSX was up 64.46 points, or
0.5 percent, at 11,913.21. The stock at one point hit 11,931.08,
its highest level since May 4.
    The heavily-weighted energy and materials groups also
gained, climbing 0.5 percent.
    The most influential gainers included Suncor Energy,
up 1.4 percent to C$31.14, Talisman Energy, which rose
1.4 percent at C$12.14, Potash Corp, up 1.7 percent to
C$46.54, and Goldcorp Inc, edging up 0.8 percent to
C$40.21.
    On the downside, shares of Trican Well Service 
plunged nearly 8 percent to C$11.25 after the company, which
performs hydraulic fracturing on oil and gas wells, warned that
wet spring weather and falling capital spending by its customers
would push it to a second-quarter loss. 
    "The service companies have been miserable investments for
the last five or six months," Stephenson said. "The reality is
we're very challenged in the gas environment in North America,
but particularly in Canada."
    Magna International Inc shares jumped 5.7 percent to
C$42.30 as Canada's biggest auto parts supplier was boosted by
data showing stronger-than-expected U.S. June sales for most
major automakers.