April 2, 2012 / 12:32 PM / in 5 years

China helps TSX posts biggest gain in 6 weeks

A Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) logo is seen in Toronto November 9, 2007.Mark Blinch

TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index notched its biggest gain in nearly six weeks on Monday after upbeat Chinese and U.S. manufacturing data trumped further signs of economic weakness in Europe.

China's official Purchasing Managers' Index hit an 11-month high, while data from the U.S. Institute for Supply Management showed the pace of growth in the manufacturing sector picked up even as measures of new orders and exports eased.

Canada's resource-heavy stock index outperformed Wall Street as the brighter news from China in particular helped calm worries about demand prospects in the world's second-largest economy.

The materials stock sector was up 1.6 percent, energy shares rose 1.2 percent and financials added 0.6 percent.

"It probably reinforces the fact that China is heading for a soft landing and not some kind of hard landing that is going to disrupt global growth," said Robert Kavcic, economist at BMO Capital Markets.

"Overall, it's pretty clear that there's a move into cyclical sectors of the equity market today and that's no doubt helped by the economic data."

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended up 114.88 points, or 0.93 percent, at 12,507.06, its biggest one-day jump since February 21. Eight of the ten sectors were in positive territory, with health care and technology lagging.

Among the most influential climbers, Royal Bank of Canada rose 1.6 percent to C$58.74, Suncor Energy advanced 1.9 percent to C$33.20 and Canadian Natural Resources was up 2.1 percent to C$33.75.

The better-than-expected reports from China and the United States offset data from Europe that showed the region's manufacturing sector shrank for an eighth straight month in March, highlighting the difficulties in getting the euro zone economy on track.

Arthur Salzer, chief executive officer of Northland Wealth Management, noted the rebound in financial stocks, which started the day on negative ground.

"Given the Canadian banking sector's performance last year, we think it's poised to outperform in 2012 and any type of moderate pullback, we've been adding to positions for clients," said Salzer.

In individual company news, Progress Energy Resources surged 7.9 percent to C$10.79 after Malaysia's state oil firm Petronas was reported to be studying plans for a Canadian gas asset acquisition that may exceed $5 billion.

"The prices are so low in that part of the energy sector that it makes sense for strategic acquisitions from other companies now," Salzer added.

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