(Adds details, quotes)
By Leah Schnurr
TORONTO, March 13 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index overcame earlier losses to push sharply higher on Thursday, propelled by resource strength and hopes that an end to write-downs related to subprime mortgages is near.
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.
Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's said write-downs from large financial institutions are likely past the halfway point, helping investors shake worries that dragged the index lower in the morning.
Record-high gold and oil prices added momentum, sending energy stocks up 1.8 percent and materials issues up 2.7 percent. The subindex of gold producers surged 3.4 percent after U.S. gold futures hit $1,000 an ounce.
Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) jumped C$2.04, or more than 4 percent, to C$52.19, and Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM.TO) ran up C$3.82, or more than 5 percent, to C$76.53. In the oil patch, Suncor Energy (SU.TO) rose C$1.93, or nearly 2 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 write-downs," 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," Picardo said. "Anything that could dispel the gloom there, I think, would be a very welcome development."
But Lex Kerkovius, senior research analyst at McLean & Partners Wealth Management Ltd. in Calgary, cautioned the volatile market looked unlikely to sustain the day's bounce.
"This (credit) problem is pretty protracted," Kerkovius said. "It's deep, it reaches into all kinds of places that people haven't even seen yet, so I don't think we're finished, not by any stretch of the imagination.
"We certainly haven't seen enough blood on the Street, as the expression goes."
Bay Street appeared largely to ignore Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney's comment that the country's economy is being stung by global credit turmoil.
On the downside, the financial sector dipped 0.2 percent, with Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) down 26 Canadian cents at C$63.38 and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) off 30 Canadian cents at C$61.56.
Elsewhere, Transcontinental Inc (TCLa.TO) climbed C$2.35, or 15.4 percent, to C$17.62 amid higher first-quarter profits at the commercial printer despite the strong Canadian dollar.
Market volume was 422 million shares worth C$8.1 billion. Advancers outpaced decliners 795 to 749. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed up 9.34 points, or 1.2 percent, at 790.81.
Stocks in the United States also advanced on optimism following the comments from S&P. The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 35.50 points, or 0.29 percent, to 12,145.74 and the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC added 19.74 points, or 0.88 percent, to 2,263.61.
$1=$0.98 Canadian Editing by Jeffrey Jones