* TSX gains 0.9 percent to 12,151.06
* Energy, materials lead index higher
* RIM dives 8 percent after results (Adds details)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, April 1 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index shot higher on Thursday as upbeat economic data prompted fresh fund flows into commodities at the start of the quarter, but a steep slide by Research In Motion RIM.TO tempered the gains.
The TSX's energy group rose more than 3 percent as oil hit an 18-month high. Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO), Canada's biggest oil company, jumped 3.9 percent to C$34.32, while Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) surged more than 4 percent to C$78.23. [O/R]
Commodity prices got a boost as factories in the United States, Europe and Asia cranked up production last month, suggesting recovery from a deep recession was taking root in economies around the globe. [ID:nSGE630021]
"The single biggest driver today is definitely coming from the economic data," said Youssef Zohny , associate portfolio manager at Van Arbor Asset Management in Vancouver.
"We are seeing inventory rebuilding and that bodes well for material and energy companies," Zohny said.
On the downside, investors pummeled shares of RIM, which sank 8.2 percent to C$69.05, after its results came in below expectations. That magnified worries about rivals stealing market share from the BlackBerry smartphone. [ID:nN01106986]
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 113.33 points, or 0.94 percent, higher at 12,151.06. The index rose 1.6 percent on the week.
The materials sector gained 1.7 percent as copper reached a 20-month high and gold prices firmed. [GOL/] [MET/L]
Teck Resources TCKb.TO added 2.6 percent to C$45.40, after the company said on Wednesday it expects to quickly pay back the term debt from its 2008 acquisition of Fording Canadian Coal Trust. [ID:nN31240319]
Also helping lift the economic outlook was data showing the number of U.S. workers filing new jobless claims fell last week, a day before the release of the closely watched U.S. government employment report for March. [ID:nN01114317]
"It should be a little more positive than the last months, given we're over the January and February lag and people now are probably looking at doing some spring hiring," said Steve Ibel, an institutional equities trader at Beacon Securities in Halifax.
In company news, Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO) plunged more than 8 percent to C$5.71 after the plane and train maker warned that profitability in its transportation segment would be less than expected this year. [ID:nN31191134]
Shares of Air Canada ACa.TO ACb.TO leaped almost 13 percent to C$2.49 after the company said on Wednesday it is exploring a closer alliance with South Korea's Asiana Airlines Inc (020560.KS) to take advantage of growing business between the two countries.[ID:nN31242100]
$1=$1.01 Canadian Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Frank McGurty