CANADA STOCKS-Energy shares power TSX to sixth straight rise
* TSX rises 172.89 points to 8,559.60
* Index marks sixth straight higher close
* Energy companies beneficiaries of oil price gain (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 index's highest closing level in more than a month as 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 big energy group as the price of oil rose by more than $2 a barrel.
Shares of Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote), one of the key drivers of 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.
"Higher oil prices and better sentiment," Laura Lau, senior portfolio manager at Sentry Select Capital Corp, said of the index's latest gain. Lau noted, however, that she has not seen any concrete evidence that the global economy has improved. Continued...