* TSX ends up 21.17 points, or 0.15 percent, at 14,144.02
* Bombardier jumps almost 8 pct on Warren Buffett deal
* Seven of 10 TSX sectors weaker (Updates to close, adds details, quotes)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, March 2 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index drifted slightly higher on Wednesday, driven by strength in energy issues and getting a boost from plane maker Bombardier (BBDb.TO).
U.S. crude oil futures settled above $100 for the first time since September 2008 as fighting in Libya intensified and an airstrike near the country’s oil infrastructure raised concerns about a prolonged disruption from the OPEC nation.
Brent crude also closed at two-and-a-half-year highs above $116 a barrel. [O/R]
The rally in oil prices lifted the TSX’s hefty energy group 0.9 percent. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) was a top gainer, advancing 1.6 percent to C$49.73, while Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) was up almost 2 percent at C$51.49.
“Energy prices remain fairly elevated with tensions in the Middle East and that’s creating some strength for energy producers,” said Youssef Zohny, portfolio manager at Van Arbor Asset Management in Vancouver.
“One of the big things we’ve noticed this week and last week ... energy is helping the TSX outperform most markets, especially the U.S.”
The industrials group was up almost 0.8 percent after Bombardier (BBDb.TO) reached a deal for as many as 120 business aircraft with Warren Buffett’s NetJets Inc. The deal could earn Bombardier more than $6.7 billion, pushing its stock up 7 percent to C$6.60. [ID:nL3E7E20EN]
“His name associated with any company tends to get a lift. But when he puts his money putting in an order, it helps even more,” said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier.
“It’s the right time of the cycle to own stocks like that, meaning the jet market is coming back. We were in a financial crisis two years ago and obviously we’ve come back pretty strongly.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended up 21.17 points, or 0.15 percent, at 14,144.02.
The TSX spent much of the morning in negative territory, however, due to worries over turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East, and concerns over the economic impact of higher oil prices.
Seven of the TSX’s 10 main sectors were actually weaker, including the materials group, home to gold and base metal miners, which finished largely flat on similarly unchanged metal prices. [GOL/] [MET/L]
Financials were up very slightly, with Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO), ahead 0.7 percent at C$80.50, while Royal Bank of Canada firmed 0.7 percent to C$56.94.
“Another reason that we’re seeing a bit of strength out of financials and industrials, Bombardier aside: we saw better than expected (U.S. private sector) jobs numbers this morning,” added Zohny.
“That is kind of foreshadowing a big (U.S. nonfarm payrolls) jobs number on Friday, which the market is keenly looking to to give a lift to stocks.”
U.S. private sector employers added more jobs than expected last month in a sign of steady improvement in the labor market, while analysts polled by Reuters expect U.S. nonfarm payrolls later in the week to soar in February. [ID:nN02213101] [ID:nN01163324]
Capping the financial’s sectors gains however, were insurers, among the index biggest laggards.
Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) dropped 1.7 percent to C$18.06 while Great-West Lifeco(GWO.TO) declined 1.1 percent to C$26.66 and Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) retreated 1.3 percent to C$31.65.
($1=$0.97 Canadian) (Additional reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson)