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* TSX up 78.78 points, or 0.59 percent, at 13,332.92
* Eight of 10 main sectors stronger
* U.S. housing starts spark rally (Updates to close)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, July 19 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index closed higher on Tuesday as investors were cheered by healthy U.S. earnings and housing starts figures, which offered relief from worries about the U.S. and European debt crises.
U.S. housing starts jumped to a six-month high in June, up 14.6 percent from a month earlier, while building permits were also unexpectedly higher.
The report offered hope for the distressed U.S. housing sector, which has been a major laggard in the economic recovery. [ID:nN1E76I0AD]
Prices for oil, copper and other key resources rallied in response to the data, sending shares on Toronto's commodity-heavy market higher.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 78.78 points, or 0.59 percent, at 13,332.92. Eight of the index's 10 main sectors were up, rising on renewed hope for the U.S. economy.
The oil and gas group posted the biggest gain, up 1.83 percent. [O/R] [MET/L]
"The new housing starts actually beat estimates, and they actually not just beat consensus, they beat the most optimistic estimates out there," Marcus Xu director of equity investments at Genus Capital Management in Vancouver.
"It's a bit of a surprise because we all know the U.S. housing market has been one of the most disappointing sectors."
Top advancers in Toronto were Suncor Energy (SU.TO), up 2.24 percent at C$38.39, while Potash Corp (POT.TO) gained 2.34 percent to C$57.62. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) climbed 2.36 percent to C$40.42, while Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) was up 1.46 percent at C$79.42.
On the downside, gold miners slid 2.53 percent as bullion prices eased from record highs as safe-haven demand dropped. That weighed on the index's materials group, which declined 0.73 percent.
News that U.S. President Barack Obama's support for a bipartisan proposal that promises $3.75 trillion in debt-reduction over 10 years also helped keep stocks well-supported during the session.
($1=$0.95 Canadian) (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Peter Galloway)