UPDATE 2-Toronto stocks lifted by robust resources

Wed Mar 26, 2008 4:41pm EDT
 
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(Updates with official closing numbers, details)

TORONTO, March 26 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index pushed higher on Wednesday, driven by a resource rally that offset weak financials and jitters surrounding the buyout of telecom company BCE Inc BCE.TO.

Climbing prices for oil and gold, key underlying commodities for the resource-heavy TSX, helped propel materials and energy shares higher.

Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO jumped C$3.57, or 2.2 percent, to C$162.91, while Canadian Natural Resources CNQ.TO added C$2.35, or 3.4 percent, to C$71.41. The energy and materials sectors gained 2.4 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.

But declines in the financial sector held the index back, with Bank of Montreal BMO.TO down C$1.93, or 4.1 percent, at C$45.00 and Royal Bank of Canada RY.TO sliding C$1.20, or 2.5 percent, to C$47.43. Overall, the banking group was down 1.4 percent.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 69.64 points, or 0.52 percent, at 13,391.86 with half of its 10 main sectors on the upside.

Financials were again stung by uncertainty over tightness in credit markets, which was underscored by news that the $20 billion leveraged buyout of U.S. radio operator Clear Channel Communications CCU.N could be in jeopardy.

The Clear Channel woes were bad news for BCE, as investors worried that its buyout, which is being funded by some of the same banks involved with the Clear Channel deal, could be on shaky ground.

The group of private equity investors buying BCE said it expects the banks financing the deal to live up to their commitments, but shares of BCE ended down 97 Canadian cents, or 2.6 percent, at C$35.72.

AGF Management AGFb.TO swam against the financial sector's retreating tide after it said its first-quarter profit rose and boosted its dividend by 25 percent. AGF gained 55 Canadian cents, or 2.7 percent, to C$20.87.

($1=$1.02 Canadian) (Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Rob Wilson)