TORONTO (Reuters) - The TSX ended at a 15-month high on Tuesday, led by a rally in shares of Potash Corp of Saskatchewan after the big fertilizer company was upgraded to "outperform" by Credit Suisse.
Potash Corp was the leading heavyweight advancer all through the session. It ended up 5.41 percent at C$123.00, which helped the TSX index reach its highest level since September 2008 and record its fourth straight higher close.
Prices for precious metals and crude oil were higher, boosting the index. While gold cut initial gains to turn lower, the overall tone to the index's energy and materials groups was solidly higher, and they rose 0.24 percent and 1.76 percent, respectively.
"There's follow-through buying from yesterday. The fact that the U.S. dollar is lower seems to help," said Elvis Picardo, analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.
Other advancers were big-name resource-based companies, including a 2.5 percent gain in shares of Teck Resources to C$40, and Suncor's 1.1 percent rise to C$38.73.
Financials were the loss leaders. Analysts cited profit-taking after the sector ran up sharply in December, while disappointing U.S. home sales data chipped away at sentiment about economic recovery.
"It's a knee-jerk reaction to that (U.S. home sales) number because any hint of weakness in the U.S. economy seems to spill over here as far as financial stocks are concerned," Picardo said.
Royal Bank of Canada was the biggest drag on the index, falling 1.5 percent to C$55.75, followed by Bank of Nova Scotia, which dropped 1.45 percent to C$48.22.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended up 21.18 points, or 0.18 percent, at 11,888.08.
It had turned briefly lower in the morning after the homes data for November raised concerns. But the index bounced back as data showed U.S. factory orders showed expansion for the third consecutive month, while a big jump in vehicle sales at Ford Motor Co and other automakers provided more hints of a recovery.
Analysts say the TSX is off to a solid start in the new year but could be prone to a selloff after a stunning 31 percent rally in 2009, its best annual performance since 1979.
"It's going to seesaw for a while and I wouldn't be too surprised to see a selloff coming at some point in the next month or two. It's just run up so much," said Steve Ibel, institutional equities trader at Beacon Securities in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Ibel said some factors to watch this year are employment growth in the United States as well as government stimulus programs, which have helped the world economy gain a steadier footing after the deep downturn.
Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Peter Galloway