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* TSX up 144.01 points, or 1.05 percent, at 13,910.77
* Chinese trade data highlights commodity demand
* Eight of the TSX's 10 main groups advance (Updates with details, comment)
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index rallied to a 31-month high on Monday, led by energy and mining issues, after Chinese trade data underscored the country's strong appetite for raw materials.
Optimism over China's economic outlook grew as concerns eased about the country's inflation overheating and as data showed imports surged. [ID:nTOE71A01I]
That boosted the TSX's energy and materials groups, which make up roughly 50 percent of the index. Energy shares rose 1.86 percent, while materials gained 1.57 percent.
"Energy is very thematic in 2011 -- it was one sector that returned very little in 2010," said Sid Mokhtari, market technician and director of institutional equity research at CIBC World Markets.
"Usually when a sector that has very little return in a year, the following year generally remains a better year for that sector."
Energy stocks have climbed nearly 5 percent so far this year.
Suncor Energy (SU.TO) gained 3.38 percent to reach C$41.61, while Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) rose 2.72 percent to C$44.38. Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) was up 2.16 percent at C$45.85.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE finished the day advancing 144.01 points, or 1.05 percent, at 13,910.77. Earlier in the session, the index hit its highest level since July 2008.
Eight of the TSX's 10 main groups were higher.
The influential and economically sensitive financial group was also up, climbing 0.83 percent. Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) gained 1.04 percent to C$79.32, while Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) advanced 0.97 percent to C$60.33.
"Rates are still very low, the economy is very surreptitiously improving. We like what we see -- this is a stock picker's market -- so it's individual stocks that are moving ... China and everything else is just a bit of a diversion," said Irwin Michael, a portfolio manager at ABC Funds.
Among miners, Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) climbed 2.54 percent to C$48.01. Cameco Corp (CCO.TO), which posted higher than expected fourth-quarter earnings late on Friday, finished with a 3.83 percent jump to C$43.14.[ID:nN14292027]
In individual corporate news, shares of Ventana Gold Corp VEN.TO rose 5.21 percent to C$12.92, slightly below the price of a sweetened takeover bid from AUX Canada, controlled by Brazilian billionaire Eike Batista. Ventana has accepted the offer. [ID:nN14278978]
($1=$0.99 Canadian) (Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)