UPDATE 5-Resource gains push Toronto stocks higher

Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:14pm EDT
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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: Quote) jumped C$2.04, or more than 4 percent, to C$52.19, and Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM.TO: Quote) ran up C$3.82, or more than 5 percent, to C$76.53. In the oil patch, Suncor Energy (SU.TO: Quote) rose C$1.93, or nearly 2 percent, to C$107.06, and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote) 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."   Continued...