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(Updates numbers, adds analyst comment)
By Jonathan Spicer
TORONTO, Feb 21 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index was modestly higher midway through Thursday's session, as bullish materials issues and soaring Research In Motion RIM.TO shares offset a bearish energy sector.
Gold miners rose strongly as investors applauded results from Goldcorp (G.TO) and Barrick Gold (ABX.TO), which also announced a $1.7 billion deal with a subsidiary of Rio Tinto (RIO.L) to buy its stake in their Cortez joint venture in Nevada, giving Barrick full ownership.
The TSX was well off earlier highs, however, as softer crude and natural gas futures sapped the shares of energy companies.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 21.42 points, or 0.2 percent, at 13,573.11, with the materials sector up 1.8 percent and the energy sector down 1 percent. The index was up as much as 118 points immediately after the opening bell.
RIM was the biggest weighted gainer by far, up C$9.30, or 0.4 percent, at C$108.34 after the BlackBerry maker raised its fourth-quarter subscriber outlook and reconfirmed its profit forecast. For details, see: [nN21246446]
"A lot of people saw the drop in RIM stock over the last month or so as an opportunity to get in, and this (outlook) gave them the indication that ... the BlackBerry's attractiveness continues," said Kate Warne, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.
The gold subsector rose 1.9 percent. Barrick, the world's biggest producer, jumped C$1.27 to C$52.09, while Goldcorp, Canada's second-biggest producer, added C$1.62 to C$41.14. For details, see: [nN21448037] and [nN20372231]
On the downside, Uranium One UUU.TO was the biggest percentage loser -- off C$1.26, or 19.5 percent, at C$5.19 -- after the miner cut its 2008 and 2009 production forecasts. For details, see [nN21457912]
Energy firms -- which have benefited from a record run-up in crude oil prices -- were the biggest drag on the TSX on Thursday, with Suncor Energy (SU.TO) falling C$1.75 to C$98.85.
Six of the index's 10 main groups were in the red including health care, down 1.2 percent. In that group, MDS Inc MDS.TO tumbled 51 Canadian cents to C$16.40 after its 2008 outlook fell short of some analyst expectations. For details, see: [nN21277213] (Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Rob Wilson)