UPDATE 4-Toronto stocks surge on U.S. data, Agrium

Wed Feb 13, 2008 5:02pm EST
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index surged nearly 200 points on Wednesday, boosted by gains in Agrium Inc and Research In Motion, and unexpectedly positive U.S. retail data.

Agricultural products supplier Agrium ABU.TO rose C$2.87, or 4.6 percent, to C$66.00 after it reported a fourth-quarter profit, helped by increasing demand and prices for fertilizer.

Research In Motion RIM.TO, the maker of the BlackBerry, also helped yank the index higher as it rose C$4.88, or 5.3 percent, to C$96.52, making it the day's biggest net gainer.

Enthusiasm over a surprise rise of 0.3 percent in U.S. retail sales for January spilled over to the Toronto market as investors hoped the economy south of the border is proving more resilient than expected.

"The retail numbers set the tone early and everybody's jumped on it," said John Kinsey, portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities Ltd. "I think the retail numbers were obviously good and better than expected, and people have been hoping for some good news for a change."

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 194.92 points, or 1.49 percent, at 13,282.30 with its 10 main groups up across the board. The index has advanced in four out of its last five sessions, making for a gain of about 3 percent.

"To a certain extent, while one month of better than expected retail sales doesn't actually make a trend, I think it's interesting that the markets are responding so positively, and really looking positively at good news today," said Kate Warne, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.   Continued...