CANADA STOCKS-TSX advances as inflation data supports bets for fewer rate hikes

Dec 19(Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index rose on Wednesday as the domestic annual inflation rate dropped sharply in November, underscoring market expectations that imminent interest rate hikes are off the table.

Lower gas prices pulled the inflation rate down to 1.7 percent, below the Bank of Canada’s 2.0 percent target for the first time in 10 months.

* At 9:40 a.m. ET (14:40 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 83.13 points, or 0.58 percent, at 14,500.02.

* The biggest gainer among the 11 major sectors was the materials sector’s 1.7 percent rise.

* Gold miners including Eldorado Gold Corp and New Gold Inc rose 4.6 percent and 5.6 percent respectively, boosting the materials index.

* Spot gold rose 0.55 percent to $1,255.71 an ounce on increasing speculation that the U.S. Federal Reserve could signal a slower pace of interest rate hikes next year.

* The market also got some support after oil prices steadied following one of its biggest falls in years, helping the energy sector climb 1 percent.

* U.S. crude prices were up 1.7 percent a barrel, while Brent crude added 1.0 percent.

* The financials sector gained 0.4 percent. The industrials sector rose 0.4 percent.

* On the TSX, 187 issues were higher, while 50 issues declined for a 3.74-to-1 ratio favouring gainers, with 19.66 million shares traded.

* The largest percentage gainers on the TSX were Parex Resources Inc, which jumped 6.4 percent and Eldorado Gold.

* Home Capital Group Inc fell 14.4 percent, the most on TSX, after Berkshire Hathaway decided to substantially exit from investment in Canada’s biggest alternative lender.

* The second biggest decliner was Gran Tierra Energy Inc , down 2.6 percent.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Bombardier Inc, Aurora Cannabis and Kinross Gold.

* The TSX posted one new 52-week highs and four new lows.

* Across all Canadian issues there were two new 52-week highs and 36 new lows, with total volume of 32.45 million shares. (Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Derek Francis)