CANADA STOCKS-TSX firmer as energy, financial issues rise

Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:26pm EDT
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* TSX index up 0.72 percent at 8,446.92

* Energy sector, up 2.2 pct, boosted by higher oil (Adds details, quotes)

TORONTO, March 17 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index rallied on Tuesday afternoon as energy issues got a boost from higher oil and hopes that the global banking system is stabilizing helped lift financials.

Oil and gas stocks, up 2.2 percent, led the TSX higher as the price of crude climbed above $49 a barrel, ahead of U.S. inventory data expected to shows a build in crude stocks. [ID:nSP469633]. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote) rose 3.6 percent to C$49.41.

The hefty financials group, home to banks and insurance companies and heavily weighted in the index, rose 1 percent, extending five straight days of gains.

"I do think it's lingering good news that some of the major U.S. financial services companies made money in the first and second months of the year," said Kate Warne, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.

Financials have rallied in recent sessions on reassuring statements made by some banks about their performance, easing fears about the ailing banking system. This spurred a rally in the broader equity markets. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO: Quote) climbed 1 percent at C$35.90.

Warne added the absence of any overly negative news is also helping to lift the market.

"We're likely to continue to see the market trade on sentiment," she said.   Continued...