* TSX ends up 14.05 points, or 0.1 percent, at 14,130.15
* Eight of the 10 index’s main groups higher (Updates to close, adds details, commentary)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, April 1 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index edged higher on Friday, hitting its strongest level in more than three weeks, as oil prices rose and healthy U.S. jobs data underscored optimism that the economic recovery is gathering steam.
U.S. employment grew solidly for a second month in March and the jobless rate hit a two-year low of 8.8 percent, emphasizing a decisive shift in the labor market that should help to underpin the recovery. [ID:nOAT004775]
The United States is Canada’s biggest trading partner and a healthy economy south of the border is positive for Canadian companies.
“Despite weak cooper, weak gold, and oil that at one point was flat, it looks like the market still liked the payrolls number out of the U.S.,” said Francis Campeau, a broker at MF Global Canada in Montreal. “Unemployment has been the Achilles’ heel of the U.S. turnaround and a stronger than expected number is always a positive.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 14.05 points, or 0.1 percent, at 14,130.15. Eight of the TSX’s 10 main sectors were stronger.
Earlier, the index hit a high of 14,181.48, its best level since March 7. The TSX ended up 0.6 percent for the week.
Economically sensitive financials were up 0.5 percent, supported by the solid data south of the border, with Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) a lead gainer, up 1.1 percent at C$60.6.
The oil and gas sector was up 0.2 percent as oil prices advanced on the U.S. payrolls report and on signs that the conflict in Libya would continue to keep Libyan oil off the market. [O/R]
Suncor Energy (SU.TO) advanced 0.3 percent to C$43.61, while Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) jumped 2.2 percent to C$50.65.
Analysts were cautious about the impact of rising oil prices, however.
“There does come a point — we may have already reached it — where (a high oil price) does start to bite into that consumer spending power,” said Bruce Latimer, a trader at Dundee Securities.
“You have view the rising price of oil as inflationary for a lot of the businesses — when you look at mining companies and such, where oil is 30-40 percent of their operating budget. It does come a point the rising oil price can be seen as bad for the economy.”
Fertilizer companies were also big gainers on Friday, tracking strong corn prices, Campeau noted, with Potash Corp POT.TO climbing 1.4 percent to C$58.01.
Tempering the broader gains, gold miners fell 1.5 percent as the strong U.S. jobs data boosted the greenback and lessened gold’s safe-haven appeal. [GOL/]
Goldcorp (G.TO) slumped 1.9 percent to C$47.41, while Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) also lost 1.9 percent to C$49.43. The broader materials group, home to mining companies, was down 1.4 percent.
($1=$0.97 Canadian) (Additional reporting by Solarina Ho; editing by Rob Wilson)