* TSX up 164.22 points, or 1.19 percent, at 14,572.66
* Seven of the 10 main index sectors advance
* Suncor, Canadian Natural drive gains
By John Tilak
TORONTO, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index hit a two-week high on Wednesday after the Bank of Canada cut its benchmark rate in a surprise move to minimize the impact of lower oil prices on economic growth, sending most major sectors, including the energy group, higher.
The central bank’s cut to 0.75 percent from 1 percent came after the longest period of unchanged rates since 1950. The move was directed partly at preventing financial instability that could result from a vulnerable housing market.
The Canadian market cheered the news, and energy shares rallied 4.4 percent. Financials, under pressure in part due to concerns about weakness in the oil and gas industry, also advanced.
Investors also awaited a potential move by the European Central Bank to initiate stimulus measures on Thursday, an action that would to serve as a major catalyst for global markets.
“If we see a larger-than-expected (stimulus) program, we’re going to likely see a greater rally in gold and possibly in equity markets,” said Mark Allen, vice president of Canadian equities at RBC Wealth Management.
He said he remained cautious about the outlook for the oil and gas sector but the demand picture might change at some point.
“We could see perhaps a reversal of the direction (in oil prices) is we’ve had quite a bit of a drop,” Allen added. “As consumers consume more at the pump, we could have a rebound in terms of the demand for oil.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 164.22 points, or 1.19 percent, at 14,572.66. Seven of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.
Within the energy sector, Suncor Energy Inc jumped 5 percent to C$36.69, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd gained 5.6 percent to C$36.10.
Royal Bank of Canada added 1.5 percent to C$76.56, and Bank of Montreal was up 1.1 percent at C$76.48, .