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* TSX ahead 45 points or 0.5 percent
* Energy group gains as oil edges above $55 a barrel
* TransCanada among big net loss decliners, down 5 percent
TORONTO, Nov 18 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index climbed in choppy action on Tuesday as the influential, and recently battered, oil and gas sector gained along with a firmer price of oil.
The energy group climbed 1.2 percent as crude edged above $55 a barrel, after bouncing off another near-22 month low. [ID:nN181474]
The heavily weighted materials and financial groups were also higher, helping keep the overall index in positive territory after it briefly turned negative.
"It's been choppy the last four or five sessions. There's low volume with high volatility," said Francis Campeau, A broker at MF Global Canada in Montreal.
He said volatility may keep some players on the sidelines for a while before they jump back into equities.
"The challenge is to know how much bad news is priced in and what is not," Campeau said.
Shortly after 11:30 a.m. (1730 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 44.82 points, or 0.51 percent, at 8,840.27, with seven of its 10 main groups modestly higher.
TransCanada Corp (TRP.TO) was one of the biggest net decliners, down 5 percent at C$32.80. The country's biggest pipeline operator said on Monday it plans to issue up to C$1.16 billion of stock to fund major projects like the Keystone oil pipeline, marking its second billion-dollar offering in half a year. [ID:nN17524623]
George Weston (WN.TO) was up 0.9 percent at C$63.45 as the food processor reported flat quarterly profit. It said hedging and restructuring charges offset slightly higher sales. [ID:nN17517485]
With little domestic news to provide direction, market players were also in tune with U.S. market news, including rescue plans that are in the works for the auto sector [ID:nN18548335] and a status update for the $700 billion financial sector bailout program. [ID:nN18260357]
U.S. stocks were up after computer maker Hewlett-Packard (HPQ.N) posted preliminary quarterly results that topped estimates and gave an upbeat profit forecast. [ID:nN18161873] (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson)