UPDATE 4-Toronto stocks jump as commodities hit highs

Thu Mar 13, 2008 4:31pm EDT
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(Updates with official closing numbers, adds details, quotes)

TORONTO, March 13 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index overcame earlier losses to push strongly higher on Thursday, propelled by climbing resources and hopes that the end to writedowns related to subprime mortgages is in sight.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's said that such writedowns from large financial institutions was likely past the halfway point, helping investors shake worries that had dragged the index lower in the morning.

Fresh record highs from key commodities gold and oil added momentum to the benchmark, sending the energy and materials sectors up 1.8 percent and 2.7 percent respectively. The subindex of gold producers surged 3.4 percent after U.S. gold futures mounted $1,000 an ounce.

Barrick Gold (ABX.TO: Quote) jumped C$2.04, or 4.1 percent, to C$52.19, while Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM.TO: Quote) ran up C$3.82, or 5.3 percent, at C$76.53. In the oil patch, Suncor Energy SU.TO rose C$1.93, or 1.8 percent, to C$107.06 and Canadian Natural Resources CNQ.TO added C$1.72, or 2.4 percent, to C$73.86.

"I think investors are taking some comfort from the statement from Standard & Poor's saying that the end is in sight for the subprime writedowns," said Elvis Picardo, investment strategist at Northern Securities Inc., in Vancouver.

"Frankly, the single biggest factor that has been weighing down the markets ... has been this continuing stream of bad news out of the U.S. housing sector and associated securities," said Picardo. "Anything that could dispel the gloom there, I think, would be a very welcome development."

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 146.15 points, or 1.1 percent, at 13,443.50 with all but three of its 10 main sectors on the upside.

The index popped into positive territory in the afternoon after the report from S&P helped lessen concerns over the continuing impact from tight credit markets.   Continued...