* TSX up 25.81 points, or 0.18 pct, to 14,239.78
* Five of the 10 main groups higher
* Oil, gold prices firm
* Inmet Mining shares fall more than 3 percent (Updates throughout)
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, March 4 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index rose to 32-month highs on Friday as violent unrest in Libya continued to drive commodity prices higher, providing support for resource stocks.
Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) rose 1.45 percent to C$51.88 while Suncor Energy (SU.TO) was up 0.86 percent at C$45.89. The overall group gained 0.59 percent.
Oil prices advanced on Friday, with Brent crude rising above $115 a barrel and U.S. crude climbing above $103 as Libyan security forces began a violent crackdown on protesters and clashed with rebel fighters.
Investors and traders have been watching the widespread unrest in North Africa and the Middle East for any signs that Saudi Arabia, the leading OPEC oil producer, could be affected. [O/R]
“I think the same factors are still in play,” said Rick Hutcheon, president and chief operating officer at RKH Investments, noting the continuing influence of geopolitical unrest on commodity prices and resource stocks.
At midmorning, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE climbed 25.81 points, or 0.18 percent, to 14,239.78. It touched a session high of 14,280.62, its highest level since July, 2008.
Five of the 10 main sectors advanced, including the influential materials group, home to miners. Shares in the sector gained 0.75 percent, helped by firmer gold prices.
Goldcorp (G.TO) rose 1.84 percent to C$48.69, while Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) was up 1.25 percent at C$51.74.
Bullion firmed to nearly $1,425 an ounce, supported by expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve would hold off on monetary tightening after the results of U.S. jobs data.
Hiring in the United States grew more than in any month since last May, but still failed to move markets dramatically as the results were largely in line with forecasts. [ID:nOAT004757] [STXNEWS/US]
In individual company news, Inmet Mining IMN.TO slipped 3.05 percent to C$67.01 after Panama said it planned to repeal a recent foreign-investment law, which could block the miner’s plans to partner with Singapore’s state investor Temasek and Korea Resources Corp on a $4.3 billion copper-gold project. [ID:nN04106429]
Going forward, Hutcheon said the market could soon take a pause from its recent extended rise into record territory.
“We’re running out of earnings season now — the Canadian banks pretty well marked the end of that,” said Hutcheon, adding that next week’s Canadian jobs data is not expected to be a huge market mover unless it surprises on the negative side.
“(The end of earnings season) means we go into a bit of a quiet period — that could take the edge of some of the upside momentum in the market. I don’t think the market’s in any serious danger of a big slide or anything, but it could go quiet.”
($1=$0.97 Canadian) (Editing by Rob Wilson)