* Toronto index snaps losing skid at four sessions
* Late push by financial shares helps index close higher
* TSX finishes week down 12.4 percent (Adds details)
By Frank Pingue
TORONTO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index capped off a losing week with a higher close on Friday as a rebound in financial shares on encouraging news from a U.S. insurer helped offset the drag lower oil prices had on the resource-heavy market.
A slide in oil prices to a four-year low proved to be the key driver behind the energy sector’s 1 percent fall, and was also to blame for sending the key index down as much as 255 points early in the session.
But a rebound in the heavily-weighted financial sector, which accounts for about a third of the overall index, picked up steam late to snap the index’s four-session losing streak.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 59.21 points, or 0.73 percent, at 8,117.03, with five of its 10 subindexes ending higher. For the week, the key index fell 12.4 percent, due largely to a whopping 864-point skid on Monday.
Canadian bank and insurance stocks mostly took their cue from their U.S. counterparts, which rose after insurer Hartford Financial Services Group (HIG.N) upped its 2008 profit forecast and said it had more than enough capital to withstand significant further deterioration in equity markets.
“They boosted their profit forecast so there seemed to be a mad dash into Hartford and them we saw other firms follow suit,” said Andrew Pyle, wealth advisor at ScotiaMcLeod in Peterborough, Ontario. “So that kind of sparked it and then you saw some follow-through buying.”
Shares of Canadian life insurer Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) jumped 6.8 percent to C$20.80 and accounted for the bulk of the market’s overall gain.
Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) shares rose 7.55 percent to C$26.20, while shares of Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) added to gains recorded in the previous session and rose 7.7 percent to C$49.75.
The energy sector finished lower as a slide in oil prices to below $41 a barrel, coupled with weak job data from Canada and the United States, put focus on the threat of a global recession and the drag it would have on oil demand.
Before the market opened data showed the Canadian economy shed more jobs in November than in any one month since June 1982. Canadian employers cut 70,600 jobs in November, more than the market’s forecast for a drop of 25,000.
“All the market sees is the price of oil is going down and they look at how bad the recession is going to be with those unemployment numbers and so they just dump (energy shares),” said Gavin Graham, Director of Investments at BMO Asset Management.
U.S. stock markets also closed higher as investors shrugged off as a grim U.S. jobs report and snapped up shares they view as oversold.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 259.18 points, or 3.09 percent, to 8,635.42 while the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC ended up 63.75 points, or 4.41 percent, at 1,509.31.
$1=$1.27 Canadian Reporting by Frank Pingue; editing by Peter Galloway