*TSX up 44.92 points at 14,297.69
*Index hits highest level since July 2008
*Energy, materials, financials stronger
*Oil prices highest since September 2008
*Gold at record above $1,440, silver highest since 1980 (Updates with details, comments)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, March 7 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index pushed to its highest level in 32 months on Monday morning as financial issues firmed and unrest in North Africa and the Middle East drove up commodity shares.
The index’s energy sector, up 0.7 percent, was the top gainer as a heightening of the Libyan crisis sent Brent crude to $118 a barrel and U.S. oil hit its highest point since September 2008. [O/R]
Suncor Energy (SU.TO) jumped 1.2 percent to C$46.94 and fellow oil company Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) gained 0.8 percent to C$50.11.
The index’s materials sector, home to precious metals miners, rose 0.6 percent as the price of bullion climbed to a record high above $1,440 and silver hit its highest point since 1980. Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) rose 1.1 percent to C$51.94 and Silver Wheaton SLW.TO jumped 2.8 percent to C$44.87. [GOL/]
“You’ve got the commodities strong so it’s certainly benefiting the Canadian market here,” said Bruce Latimer, a trader at Dundee Securities.
He noted that PDAC, the world’s largest mining convention, is being held in Toronto this week and is generating more excitement than usual for miners at a time when metals prices are surging. [ID:nN02153893]
At 10:17 a.m. (1517 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 44.92 points, or 0.32 percent, at 14,297.69. Earlier in the session, it rose as high as 14,329.49, its highest level since July 2008.
Latimer cautioned that the TSX is vulnerable to a pullback at these lofty levels.
“A high oil price is good for oil stocks but it’s not good for the overall economy; people are afraid that high oil prices are going to stall the recovery mode,” he said.
“There just comes a point where high oil prices translate into high gasoline prices, which takes money out of other sectors of the economy.”
Only four of the index’s 10 main groups were stronger, including its most heavily weighted sector, financials, which rose 0.4 percent.
Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) climbed 0.4 percent to C$59.84, while Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) advanced 0.3 percent to C$83.87.
($1=$0.97 Canadian) (Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Peter Galloway)