TSX gains as banks, resource stocks, railways rise

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index jumped on Thursday as higher commodity prices helped lift mining stocks, while banks and railways also saw strong gains and the energy sector rose despite a slip in oil prices.

A man walks past an old Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) sign in Toronto, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

A weaker U.S. dollar .DXY helped drive gold and other metals higher, as expectations eased of a further rise in U.S. interest rates this year and investors scrambled to close out bearish positions before the Lunar New Year holiday in China.

The materials sector of the Toronto index, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 4.6 percent, with Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO up 4.3 percent to C$15.41 and Goldcorp Inc G.TO adding 5.1 percent to C$18.18.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended the session up 181.48 points, or 1.44 percent, at 12,774.50. Eight of its 10 main groups gained.

Global equity and other markets have swung wildly in the first weeks of 2016, and Canada’s index has followed along, hitting its lowest since August 2012 in mid-January before rebounding some 10 percent.

“The biggest challenge is this high correlation - you’re either really right or really wrong if you’re making big calls,” said Christine Tan, chief investment officer at Excel Funds, which manages emerging market exposure for Canadian investors.

The most influential movers on the index included Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd CP.TO, which rose 6.8 percent to C$169.80, and its rival Canadian National Railway CNR.TO, which added 3.1 percent to C$75.72.

Canada's largest oil and gas company, Suncor Energy Inc SU.TO, ended up 0.9 percent at C$31.82 after reporting a fourth-quarter operating loss and cut to 2016 capital spending plans due to the collapse in global crude prices.

The overall energy group gained 0.7 percent, even as crude prices fell 2 percent. [O/R]

BCE Inc BCE.TO rose 1.4 percent to C$57.51. The telecom and media company reported an 8.5 percent drop in fourth quarter profit as it paid more to win wireless business, but raised its dividend by 5 percent and pointed to moderate revenue and earnings growth in 2016.

The financials group gained 1.2 percent, including a 1.2 percent advance in Royal Bank of Canada RY.TO to C$70.99.

Excel’s Tan said the TSX would likely provide high single-digit returns this year based on a modest recovery in beaten-down commodity stocks and a slower Fed hike path than markets had anticipated in December.

“I would not invest based on the assumptions that commodity prices will rebound dramatically,” she said.

Additional reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Grant McCool