TORONTO (Reuters) - The main Canadian stock index rose on Friday as heavyweight energy shares climbed with oil prices and financial stocks were up ahead of their earnings season, and the index ended the week with a slight gain despite sharp mid-week falls.
Canadian banks rode higher on broadly positive sentiment for equities. Their quarterly earnings season starts next week, and some investors expect dividend increases.
“Banking stocks, for the most part, are on the positive side,” said Fred Ketchen, director of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod. “There has been some speculation that a couple of the banks will be increasing their dividend.”
The energy sector gained as the price of crude oil rebounded after two days of heavy losses. <O/R>
Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) had the single biggest positive effect on the index, moving 1.4 percent higher to C$31.95.
“We may be reinitiating the uptrend,” said Douglas Davis, chief executive at Davis-Rea. “Possibly it’s just a bounceback after two bad days, but it doesn’t look like that.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE bounced off a five-week low hit on Thursday, and ended up 61.66 points, or 0.49 percent, at 12,701.63. It notched a gain of 0.12 percent for the week.
Davis said the beaten-down oil and gas sector might win back favor as problems getting Canadian oil to market dissipate with increased rail volume and the likelihood of a U.S. government green light for the Keystone XL pipeline project to carry crude from the Alberta oil sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.
“If Keystone stumbles, we stumble ... but I would bet on it going through,” he said.
The index’s gain echoed moves in U.S. and European markets, although Canadian miners bucked the trend, with heavy selling in fertilizer companies in particular. .N.EU
Fertilizer producer Agrium Inc AGU.TO was the heaviest weight on the index, down 5.2 percent at C$103.14.
Agrium reported record high fourth-quarter profit after normal trading hours on Thursday but was hurt by an analyst downgrade of many of the leading names in the fertilizer sector, including Potash Corp POT.TO, which fell 1 percent to C$39.96.
The market mostly brushed off data that showed the Canadian economy registered its lowest inflation in more than three years in January and its largest drop in retail sales in almost three years in December.
“I don’t see anything that is really outstanding on the positive side...when you look at things going on in the Canadian economy,” ScotiaMcLeod’s Ketchen said.
Editing by Peter Galloway