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By Cameron French
TORONTO, May 8 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index surged late to finish the session up more than 200 points on Thursday as rising commodity prices prices lit a fire under shares of gold and energy producers.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE rose 236.46 points, or 1.65 percent, to close at 14,607.99.
Nine of the 10 TSX subgroups rose during the session, led by a 3.03 gain among energy stocks and a 3.36 percent surge in materials issues, particularly among gold mining companies.
"We were led by the traditional leaders in Canada, the energy, golds and mines," said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall and MacTier.
The S&P/TSX 60 index of Canadian blue chips rose 16.42 points, or 1.92 percent, to 869.45.
Crude oil prices surged to a fourth-straight record high during the session, pushing above $124 a barrel and igniting shares of heavyweight producers such as Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), which rose 4.6 percent to C$96, and Suncor Energy (SU.TO), up 4.3 percent at C$126.25.
Top gold producer Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) leaped 4.6 percent to C$41.00 as bullion prices charged above $880 an ounce.
Despite widespread worries about the economy, the Canadian market has been charging higher since March, and is now within striking distance of its record high of 14,646.82, hit last July.
Analysts said equity investors have been calmed by actions of the Canadian and U.S. central banks, which have steadily cut interest rates as economic figures have weakened.
"The bottom line is that perhaps a good deal of the negativity is already priced in the market, and there's a lot of cash out in the market waiting to be placed," said Irwin Michael, portfolio manager at ABC Funds.
Shares of Alimentation Couche-Tard (ATDb.TO) added 3.8 percent to C$15.40, after the company said it had partnered with Irving Oil to take over the operation of 252 stores in Atlantic Canada and New England.
The financial sector was the sole group on the downside, dipping 0.84 percent, and weighed down by Manulife Financial (MFC.TO), which dropped 5.1 percent to C$36.90 after reporting a 12 percent drop in quarterly profit.
The biggest decliner on the index was Kingsway Financial, which (KFS.TO) plunged 30.1 percent to C$9.97 after the insurer said it swung to a quarterly loss, prompting analysts to lower their price targets on the company.
In the United States, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 52.43 points, or 0.41 percent, to 12,866.78, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq .IXIC climbed 12.75 points, or 0.52 percent, to 2,451.24.
$1=$1.02 Canadian Reporting by Cameron French; Editing by Peter Galloway