UPDATE 3-Toronto stocks rise sharply, helped by Agrium, RIM

Wed Feb 13, 2008 4:35pm EST
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(Updates numbers, adds details, quotes)

TORONTO Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index climbed sharply 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 benchmark, 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 all of its 10 main groups in positive territory.

The heavyweight energy sector moved up 2.1 percent, while oil prices continued to move higher after Venezuela cut off oil sales to Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N as a dispute over a nationalized oil project intensified.

Canadian Natural Resources CNQ.TO added C$2.26, or 3.6 percent, to C$65.25, and Imperial Oil IMO.TO was up C$1.56, or 3 percent, at C$53.28.   Continued...