CANADA STOCKS-TSX records fifth straight higher close

Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:21pm EDT
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* TSX rallies 83.32 points to 8,386.71

* Banks, insurers headline latest gain

* Fifth straight higher close for TSX (Adds details, comments and official numbers)

By Frank Pingue

TORONTO, March 16 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index ended at its highest closing level in over a month on Monday as bank shares got a boost after Britain's Barclays Bank BARC.L said it had a strong start to the year.

The heavily-weighted financials index, home to Canadian banks and insurance companies, added to a string of recent gains as Britain's Barclays became the latest bank to say it began 2009 on a strong footing, echoing a refrain heard from the executives of major U.S. banks last week.[ID:nLG308800]

Shares of insurer Manulife Financial MFC.TO, the biggest contributor to the index's gain, rose 5.3 percent to C$13.49, while Toronto-Dominion Bank TD.TO shares jumped 2.7 percent to close at C$42.31.

"Certainly in Canada you're seeing the banks lead the charge and some of the insurance companies that were beaten down participating very nicely as well," said Elvis Picardo, analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.

"There seems to be an improving level of confidence in the financials and whether that gets sustained in the weeks to come remains to be seen, but this is a promising start."

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE unofficially closed up 83.32 points, or 1 percent, at 8,386.71. It marked the first time since Feb. 9 that the index has closed higher in five straight sessions.

($1=$1.27 Canadian) (Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)