* TSX up 0.35 percent at 11,535.87
* Gold rises to 18-mth high, lifts materials
* Economic data supports recovery hopes (Adds details and analyst comment)
TORONTO, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock market index built on recent gains on Wednesday morning, pushed up by a rise in the gold price to an 18-month high and data that spurred hopes that the worst of the economic downturn is over.
The rally was led by miner Barrick Gold (ABX.TO), which rose 1.7 percent to C$41.37, followed by Goldcorp (G.TO), up 1.3 percent to C$46.00.
The index's mining-heavy materials group rose 1.34 percent, with six gold issues among the top 10 heavyweight advancers in early dealings.
Gold rose above $1,020 per ounce as the U.S. dollar's slide to 2009 lows against the euro sparked buying of the precious metal as an alternative safe-haven asset. Gold's ascent also helped lift silver and platinum to multi-month peaks. [ID:nLG17282]
"There's a lot of green across the board. Gold is leading the way and I expect gold to trade higher over the next few days," said Steve Ibel, institutional equities trader at Beacon Securities, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Also on Wednesday, data showed that the underlying trend in U.S. consumer prices indicated muted inflation pressure, [ID:nN16118540] while Canadian manufacturing sales rose in July at their fastest pace in 12 years. [ID:nN16446129]
Ibel said that although the U.S. CPI figures were in line with expectations, there may be concern that some inflation is coming down the road, which could put pressure on the index's gains.
At 10:10 a.m. (1410 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 40.04 points, or 0.35 percent, at 11,535.87, adding to gains on Tuesday, when it closed at its highest level this year.
Seven of the index's 10 main groups were higher.
The financials group was up a modest 0.14 percent as market players monitored comments from the heads of the country's big banks, including Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), at an investor conference about their capital positions and acquisition opportunities. [ID:nWNA3508] [ID:nWNA3509] [ID:nWNA3516]
($1=$1.07 Canadian) (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Peter Galloway)