February 13, 2008 / 4:14 PM / in 10 years

UPDATE 1-Toronto stocks higher, Agrium leads the way

(Updates with details, analyst comments)

TORONTO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index pushed higher on Wednesday morning, helped by strong earnings from fertilizer-producer Agrium (AGU.TO) and better than expected U.S. retail sales last month.

Research In Motion RIM.TO also gave the TSX a boost, rising 2 percent two days after it had a major BlackBerry outage, which it blamed on a routine upgrade to a data-routing system.

The retail sales, closely watched for clues on the state of the U.S. economy, rose 0.3 percent in January, ahead of analysts’ forecasts of a 0.2 percent decline. For details, see: [nN13334844]

The United States is Canada’s biggest trading partner and the TSX, which has climbed in three of the previous four sessions, is usually sensitive to U.S. economic data.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 60.45 points, or 0.5 percent, at 13,147.83 with seven of its 10 main groups in positive territory.

Agrium jumped C$2.07 to C$65.20 after the world’s third-largest fertilizer producer swung to a profit in the fourth quarter, beating its own expectations and those of analysts. For details, see: [nN13248601]

The wider materials sector was up 0.2 percent, but most of the gains were found in the heavyweight energy sector, which rose 1 percent despite lower crude oil and flat natural gas futures.

The information technology sector rose 2 percent with RIM up C$1.80 at C$93.44.

In earnings, WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO) said its fourth-quarter profit tripled, driving its stock up by 71 Canadian cents to C$18.01. For details, see: [nN12259464]

Yellow Pages Income Fund YLO_u.TO advanced 15 Canadian cents to C$12.00 after Canada’s largest publisher of phone books said quarterly profit rose 39 percent. For details, see: [nN13341014]

Despite the positive earnings, John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada, said results in general this earnings season have been hurt by the strength of the Canadian dollar.

“That’s a long-term adjustment that businesses will have to face,” Ing said.

On the downside, gold producers and a handful of financial institutions were lower, including Goldcorp (G.TO), down 18 Canadian cents at C$35.46 and Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO), off 67 Canadian cents at C$54.13.

$1=$1 Canadian Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Rob Wilson

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