* TSX up 44.68 points, or 0.29 percent, at 15,233.52
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, April 8 (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index extended a rally into a fifth session on Wednesday as Manulife Financial Corp led major financial stocks higher after signing an Asian distribution deal, while consumer names also rose.
The gains were limited by a retreat among oil and gas producers as the price of crude fell back.
Manulife shares gained 1.6 percent to C$21.89 after the Canadian insurer signed a deal to pay $1.2 billion to Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings for a 15-year partnership to sell products through DBS’s Asian branch network.
“The Manulife-DBS deal today adds a little bit to the growth prospects for them,” said Craig Fehr, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.
He added that the outlook for an interest-rate hike at some point was positive for insurers, which have struggled for years in a low-rate environment. “The fundamental tailwinds are at the insurers’ backs,” he said.
Sun Life Financial Inc also gained, up 1 percent at C$39.80, while some of the index’s big banks contributed to the overall rise, with Royal Bank of Canada up 0.4 percent at C$78.15.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 44.68 points, or 0.29 percent, at 15,233.52 in morning trade.
With Saudi Arabia reporting record output and U.S. supply surging, oil fell back from near 2015 highs, taking some of Canada’s biggest energy names down with it.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd lost 1.9 percent to C$40.23, Crescent Point Energy Corp fell 3.2 percent to C$30.31, and Cenovus Energy Inc gave up 2.3 percent to C$21.88.
Fehr said a recent runup in consumer discretionary and staples sectors bodes well for a broader economic recovery.
“To see the consumer names rally domestically is I think a good reflection of the fact that investors are starting to identify some value there.”
In the consumer groups, car parts maker Magna International Inc gained 0.7 percent to C$67.21 and supermarket chain Loblaw Cos Ltd added 0.8 percent to C$65.14.
$1=$1.25 Canadian Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Peter Galloway