UPDATE 3-Toronto stocks lifted by climbing resource shares

Mon Feb 25, 2008 4:33pm EST
 
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(Updates with official closing numbers, adds details, quotes)

TORONTO Feb 25 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index finished strongly higher on Monday, supported by gains in energy and resource shares, and further lifted by relief over the health of U.S. bond insurers.

The energy sector, which accounts for about 25 percent of the index, rose 2.3 percent as oil prices climbed above $99 a barrel amid cold weather in Europe and parts of the United States.

In Toronto, Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote) was up C$2.94, or 4.3 percent, at C$71.56, while Suncor Energy (SU.TO: Quote) added C$1.83, or 1.9 percent, to C$99.34.

The market had a late-day rally after Standard & Poor's said it had ended its downgrade review for U.S. bond insurer MBIA Corp (MBI.N: Quote) and affirmed the ratings of Ambac Financial Group (ABX.N: Quote).

"(There's) relief that the bond insurance companies - the Ambacs, the MBIAs, the monolines - are not getting downgraded, at least imminently," said Kate Warne, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.

"I think that propelled the second leg of the market rise today."

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 111.52 points, or 0.82 percent, at 13,697.45 with six of its 10 main groups climbing.

The resource-laden materials sector pushed up 1.2 percent, with Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO: Quote) gaining C$4.93, or 3.1 percent, to C$163.45, and Agrium Inc (AGU.TO: Quote) adding C$2.49, or 3.5 percent, to C$73.98.   Continued...