January 3, 2008 / 2:16 PM / in 10 years

Toronto stocks set to rise as gold, oil stay hot

TORONTO, Jan 3 (Reuters) - The resource-heavy main index of the Toronto Stock Exchange looked set to rise on Thursday following three days of gains as gold and oil prices showed no sign of cooling.

U.S. jobs reports that met or beat expectations were also seen boosting stocks, which have been hampered by the prospect of a recession in the United States, Canada’s biggest trading partner.

On commodity markets, spot gold logged a record high of $866.10 an ounce with investors snapping up the safe-haven metal as a hedge against the risk of inflation.

That risk was underlined by the rise in U.S. crude oil prices, which remained close to the record $100-a-barrel mark reached in the previous session.

Oil futures were at $99.85 a barrel in early action, as violence in OPEC-member Nigeria and cold weather in the United States were seen crimping supply and boosting demand.

Gavin Graham, chief investment officer at Guardian Group of Funds, said the TSX index should rise as energy and materials shares account for nearly half of the overall market.

“After the break-outs in gold and oil ... that would seem to be the major driver,” he said, noting the inflation worries have already taken a bite out of TSX bank stocks, which slipped 1.6 percent on Wednesday.

TSX energy shares surged more than 2 percent on Wednesday. The gold-mining subsector soared 7.5 percent.

The first of Canada’s 2008 economic data is scheduled for release Friday, with industrial product price and raw materials price indexes for November.

In the United States, a report early on Thursday showed jobless claims fell by a bigger-than-expected margin last week. For details, see: [nN031375]

Another report showed 40,000 private-sector jobs were created in December, meeting expectations and boosting U.S. stock futures. For details, see: [nN03213339]

In thin corporate news, BMO raised Canadian Utilities CU.TO to market perform from underperform due to recent weakness in the company’s shares.

Elsewhere, Enterra Energy Trust ENT_u.TO said it agreed to sell oil and gas properties worth a gross C$40.9 million to three separate parties.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE starts the day at 13,926.76 after rising 93.70 points, or 0.68 percent, on Wednesday, the first trading day of the year.

$1=$0.99 Canadian Reporting by Jonathan Spicer

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