UPDATE 4-Toronto stocks propelled higher by banks, oils

Fri Feb 22, 2008 5:52pm EST
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO Feb 22 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index finished higher on Friday thanks to a late-day rally by financial shares and gains by the energy sector.

After a see-saw session, the index climbed strongly higher shortly before the close amid reports that banks were close to an agreement on a rescue plan for U.S. bond insurer Ambac Financial Group Inc ABK.N. A source said the deal could be announced early next week.

The financial sector rose 1 percent, with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce CM.TO adding C$1.86, or 2.8 percent, to C$67.61 and Toronto-Dominion Bank TD.TO up 84 Canadian cents, or 1.3 percent, at C$67.18.

The health of bond insurers amid the credit crunch has been a source of worry for investors recently and a report from CNBC television about a possible bailout helped lift stocks on both sides of the border.

"Ambac looks like there's some kind of a deal done with those banks that should be announced Monday or Tuesday -- that's what (CNBC) said -- and that's all of a sudden changed the whole psychology of (the market)," said Sal Masionis, a stockbroker at Brant Securities.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 76.38 points, or 0.57 percent, at 13,585.93 with seven of its 10 main sectors in positive territory. In choppy action, the index fell more than 100 points earlier in the day.

Bay Street was up 2.7 percent for the week, which was shortened by Ontario's Family Day holiday on Monday.   Continued...