March 6, 2009 / 3:21 PM / in 8 years

CANADA STOCKS-Energy sector leads TSX higher

* TSX up 1.68 percent at 7,757.903,

* Energy sector up 3.6 percent, oil up at $45/barrel

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By Jennifer Kwan

TORONTO, March 6 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index rose on Friday morning as oil and gas stocks got a boost from higher oil prices and after U.S. jobs data, while gloomy, showed job losses weren't as bad as the market feared.

The energy sector led the TSX higher, rising 3.6 percent as oil climbed to $45 a barrel [ID:nSP482596]. Key contributors to the market's rise included Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), up 7.2 percent at C$43.43, and Suncor Energy (SU.TO), which climbed 6.5 percent to C$27.90.

The index, which dropped 2.4 percent on Thursday, also got support from U.S. data that showed employers axed 651,000 jobs in February, pushing the unemployment rate to 8.1 percent, its highest in 25 years. For more see [ID:nN05339652].

While the losses were big they weren't as bad as the market's worst expectations, said Paul Taylor, chief investment officer at BMO Harris Investment Management Inc.

"Jobs are absolutely critical at this point in the cycle because you can't make a mortgage payment if you don't have a job and you can't go out and spend on durable goods if you don't have a job," he said.

The figure was near economists' consensus expectation, although some analysts had forecast losses as high as 800,000.

"The fact that it didn't come in as dire as that is a sign that maybe the economy isn't as close to crumbling as we might have thought," he said.

However, Taylor added the report is far from rosy, noting revisions upward for figures for job losses in January and December.

At 9:53 a.m. (1453 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 127.86 points, or 1.68 percent, at 7,757.03, with eight of its 10 main groups higher.

The health care sector dropped 1.1 percent and the information technology group sagged 0.5 percent.

Materials drew support from firm gold and base metals prices, with Teck Cominco TCKb.TO up 7.6 percent at C$3.68.

Among individual names, SNC-Lavalin Group Inc (SNC.TO) (SNC.TO) rose 5.2 percent to C$30.14 after the Canadian engineering and construction company reported a 9 percent increase in quarterly profit and raised its dividend. [ID:nN06378249] ($1=$1.28 Canadian) (Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; editing by Janet Guttsman)

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