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By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, March 5 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index rose in a broad but shallow rally on Thursday, led by a 5 percent jump in shares of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd after the major oil and gas producer surprised investors with strong quarterly results.
While the index notched a small gain after a two-day slip, investors appeared to only cautiously embrace some resource stocks as the price of oil stabilizes at historically low levels.
"Investors are starting to pick through the rubble and the relative valuations in the (energy) sector look a bit better," said Youssef Zohny, portfolio manager at StennerZohny Investment Partners of Richardson GMP Ltd. "Earnings definitely help reduce a lot of the fog."
Canadian Natural jumped to C$38.64 after the company's earnings beat expectations. It also trimmed its budget, boosted its dividend and said it expects to spin off assets this year.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index added 20.27 points, or 0.13 percent, to 15,103.11. Eight of 10 main sectors gained, with consumer discretionary and financials the only decliners.
The TSX was supported by a broad global stock market gain as the European Central Bank spelled out its latest effort to boost the struggling euro zone economy.
"The main driver is one, no surprises out of Europe," said Irwin Michael, portfolio manager at ABC Funds.
Those gains were uneven, however, with the price of gold initially rising on the ECB news before changing direction. The materials group, home to mining stocks and other resource companies, pared early gains to end 0.3 percent higher.
Goldcorp Inc, the world's biggest gold producer by market value, rose 1.7 percent to C$25.88. Barrick Gold Corp gained 0.9 percent to C$15.23.
The heavily weighted financial sector slipped marginally. (Additional reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by James Dalgleish)