TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index rose broadly and sharply on Monday in a rally sparked early in the day by record commodity prices and sustained later by gains in the financial and tech sectors.
A record high for corn prices amid widespread flooding in the U.S. Midwest pushed up shares of fertilizer companies Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO) and Agrium (AGU.TO), making them among the biggest gainers on the benchmark.
Potash Corp was up C$3.55, or 1.5 percent, at C$235.67, while Agrium rose C$1.84, or 1.7 percent, to C$108.30, helping push Toronto’s materials group up 1.7 percent.
Tech heavyweight Research In Motion RIM.TO also lent its support, jumping C$7.42, or 5.4 percent, to C$144.21. Nokia NOK1V.HE unveiled two new business phones, but investors did not see the offerings as a threat to RIM’s BlackBerry.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 165.82 points, or 1.12 percent, at 14,944.28 with all but two of its 10 main sectors rising.
The flooding across Iowa and Illinois - the worst in 15 years - stoked fears of crop losses in the United States, the world’s top grain exporter.
“It certainly seems like the crop is in big, big trouble,” said Levente Mady, broker at MF Global Canada, in Vancouver.
“A lot of fertilizers and previous plantings have been washed away by the floods, so demand is going to be just huge for the agriculture and fertilizer sector, and obviously that’s being reflected in (the stocks).”
Oil prices hit a record high near $140 a barrel early on Monday but then retreated to end lower as Saudi Arabia looked prepared to boost production.
Toronto oil and gas shares held on to a gain of 0.2 percent, with Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) up 66 Canadian cents, or 0.6 percent, at C$104.75, and Canadian Oil Sands Trust COS_u.TO gaining C$1.06, or 2 percent, to C$53.80.
EnCana Corp (ECA.TO) said it had established a leading position in gas shale ventures in Canada and the United States, lifting its stock C$1.51, or 1.6 percent, to C$95.21.
The financial sector rose 1.3 percent as U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc LEH.N posted a big quarterly loss, as it had forecast last week. The sector saw some relief as investors hoped banks were coming closer to cleaning up their balance sheets.
Among Canadian banks - which generally have not had losses as big as those of their foreign rivals - Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) was up C$1.40, or 2.2 percent, at C$64.85, and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) gained 92 Canadian cents, or 1.4 percent, to C$68.77.
“The Canadian banks are in way better shape,” said Paul Harris, portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management.
“They may have writeoffs as well, but certainly not at the level of all these other institutions in the United States.”
Market volume was 297 million shares worth C$6.2 billion. Advancers outpaced decliners 882 to 689. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed up 10.34 points, or 1.2 percent, at 892.06.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI slipped 38.27 points, or 0.31 percent, to 12,269.08 amid broker downgrades. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 20.28 points, or 0.83 percent, to 2,474.78, with help from technology stocks including Research In Motion.
Editing by Peter Galloway