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* TSX rises 172.89 points to 8,559.60
* Energy companies power latest gain
* TSX marks sixth straight higher close (Adds details, comments and official numbers)
By Frank Pingue
TORONTO, March 17 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index closed higher for a sixth straight session on Tuesday with the latest charge by the resource-heavy index driven by energy issues as the price of oil rose.
It was the second straight session where the index ended at its highest closing level in over a month. Improved sentiment has helped the market rally sharply from the five-year low it hit earlier in March.
The lion's share of the latest gain was powered by the 4 percent rally in the influential energy group as the price of oil rose over $2 a barrel.
Shares of Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), one of the key driver's behind the index's gain, rallied 4.89 percent to close at C$50.02, while EnCana Corp (ECA.TO) shares rose 2.9 percent to C$51.50.
"In terms of the market downturn we had the week before last, I really believe a number of stocks were in an oversold position and obviously the market has tended to agree with us," said Gareth Watson, Canadian equity advisor at ScotiaMcLeod.
"But I wouldn't be surprised at the least if over the next coming days we see some of those names pull back because of the short term momentum that they had to the upside."
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE rose 172.89 points, or 2.06 percent, to close at 8,559.60. (Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)