(Updates with official closing numbers, adds detail, quote)
By Leah Schnurr
TORONTO, Dec 24 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index ended higher on Monday after a half day of light trading, pulled up by gains in resource and financial shares.
The materials sector led the way, adding 1.3 percent, lifted by net gain leader Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO), which was up C$6.19, or 4.7 percent, at C$137.33.
Novagold Resources (NG.TO) was up 6 Canadian cents, or 0.8 percent, at C$8.11, while Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) rose 26 Canadian cents, or 0.7 percent, to C$38.88 as the price of gold steadied. The gold-mining subsector as a whole, however, was off 0.3 percent.
The heavyweight energy group also gave support, moving up 0.5 percent as oil prices reversed direction and moved higher. Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) rose 47 Canadian cents, or 0.9 percent, to C$54.55, while Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) edged up 32 Canadian cents, or 0.5 percent, to C$70.88.
The market’s key S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 98.75 points, or 0.7 percent, at 13,694.84. The market closed early for the Christmas holidays and will reopen on Dec. 27.
“It appears as though recent winners and recent leadership are just continuing their recent gains (but) for the most part it’s relatively quiet today,” said Neil Andrew, portfolio manager at Leeward Hedge Funds.
“(It‘s) a very late-month rally that started in a meaningful way on Friday,” he said. “It seems as though people have returned to fundamentals in our view.”
The financial sector gained 0.9 percent after a restructuring plan for the seized-up asset-backed commercial paper market was released on the weekend.
North American financial shares were also boosted by Merrill Lynch & Co Inc’s MER.N plans to raise up to $6.2 billion and sell a lending unit.
On Friday, the index rallied almost 200 points on robust commodities and a more than 10 percent jump in the shares of Research In Motion RIM.TO after it reported strong earnings.
The BlackBerry-maker slipped C$1.16, or 1 percent, to C$116.41 on Monday, while the tech sector lost 1.1 percent.
Although the main TSX index will most likely finish 2007 with a gain, the year has been a rocky one for the TSX. After recovering from July and August’s steep selloff, the index has stumbled in the last two months of the year.
Turmoil in global credit markets and worries over the state of the U.S. economy have plagued the Toronto index.
Market volume was a light 174 million shares worth C$2.6 billion. Advancers outpaced decliners 858 to 638. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed up 6.74 points, or 0.9 percent, at 801.53.
In New York, stocks were led higher by financial shares following Merrill Lynch’s announcement. The Dow Jones .DJI industrial average closed up 98.68 points, or 0.7 percent, at 13,549.33, while the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC rose 21.51 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,713.50. (Editing by Peter Galloway) ($1=$0.99 Canadian)