* TSX ends up 38.05 points, or 0.3 pct, at 14,252.77
* Energy, materials, healthcare advance
* Oil, gold prices rally (Updates to close, adds details, quotes)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, March 4 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index reached its highest level in 32 months on Friday as intensified fighting in Libya boosted commodity prices, supporting the index’s powerhouse energy and gold-mining stocks.
Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) surged 3.6 percent to C$49.70, while Suncor Energy (SU.TO) jumped almost 2 percent to C$46.39. The energy sector overall gained 1.5 percent.
U.S. crude oil futures rose for the third day in four as fierce fighting between loyalists to Libya’s Muammar Gaddaffi and rebels seeking to oust him from power raised more fears of supply disruptions. [O/R] [ID:nL3E7E4075]
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.
“You see the real dichotomy between the Canadian and U.S. markets, one more favorably impacted by commodities than the other,” said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse, noting the selloff south of the border despite a solid U.S. jobs report.
“The fear is that the increase in oil will cut into discretionary expenditures by consumers and that will in turn hurt all other elements of the economy.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended up 38.05 points, or 0.3 percent, to 14,252.77, its best closing level since June 2008. It ended the week 1.4 percent firmer.
However only three of the 10 main sectors advanced, including the influential materials group, home to miners
South of the border, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 88.32 points, or 0.72 percent, at 12,169.88.
Bullion rose above $1,430 an ounce, while silver surged 3 percent to 31-year highs, as soaring oil prices and widening unrest in Libya prompted investors to pile into safe havens.
Precious metal shares gained 0.7 percent as Goldcorp (G.TO) rose 1.9 percent to C$48.70, while Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) was up 0.6 percent at C$51.40.
Silver Wheaton SLW.TO rallied 2.7 percent to C$43.64 after declaring its maiden dividend, while its quarterly profit beat analysts estimates, lifted by higher gold prices. [ID:nL3E7E32KD]
Also on the leaderboard, healthcare stocks edged up 0.2 percent.
($1=$0.97 Canadian) (Additional reporting by Solarina Ho)