UPDATE 4-Strong commodities propel Toronto stocks higher

Thu Feb 28, 2008 5:16pm EST
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By Leah Schnurr

TORONTO Feb 28 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index ended higher on Thursday, spurred by resource issues as commodity prices surged and oil company Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO: Quote) said its profit more than doubled.

Prices for both oil and gold, key underlying commodities for the resource-heavy Toronto market, hit new highs while the U.S. dollar sagged. Oil settled up $2.95 at $102.59 a barrel after earlier racing to $102.97 after a fire at a major European natural gas terminal.

Toronto's energy sector advanced 2.4 percent, while Canadian Natural was up C$3.38, or 4.7 percent, at C$75.20 after reporting strong fourth-quarter results, helped by soaring oil prices.

Also in the oil patch, Suncor Energy (SU.TO: Quote) rose C$3.30, or 3.3 percent, to C$103.95, and Canadian Oil Sands Trust COS_u.TO added C$1.32, or 3.2 percent, to C$43.00.

The gold producers subindex was up 2 percent, boosted by a record high for bullion as spot gold moved as high as $969 an ounce before easing slightly to $968.90. Barrick Gold (ABX.TO: Quote) was up C$1.40, or 2.8 percent, at C$52.00.

The larger materials group also pushed up 2 percent, with Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO: Quote) rising C$2.76, or 1.8 percent, to C$158.78 and Teck Cominco TCKb.TO gaining C$2.06, or 5.3 percent, to C$41.19.

"On commodities, certainly we are getting some traction, (but) it should be a lot more as, interestingly enough, stocks are still not back at levels anywhere near the levels they were at the last time oil was at this level," said Lex Kerkovius, senior research analyst at McLean & Partners Wealth Management Ltd. in Calgary.   Continued...