* Key index hits highest level since Sept 2008.
* Gold stocks up 3 percent as bullion prices rise
* Ivanhoe jumps after it says to look at options
* WestJet rises after Dec load factor sets record (Adds analyst’s comments, details. Updates prices)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Jan 6 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index climbed for a fifth straight session on Wednesday, boosted by strength in its weighty materials sector as a stronger bullion price lifted shares of gold miners.
Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO), up 2 percent at C$43.32, played the biggest role of any stock in leading the index higher. Goldcorp Inc (G.TO), up 2 percent at C$43.59, also added to the gains as gold prices rose to near three-week highs as fresh new year investment flows boosted commodities. [GOL/]
At 11:55 a.m. (1655 GMT) the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 45.8 points, or 0.39 percent, at 11,933.88. The index at one point hit as high as 11,953.28.
“We continue to see a broad-based rally in base metals and precious metals that has a two-fold emphasis,” said Peter Chandler, senior vice president at Canaccord Wealth Management.
“One, growth coming from the Pacific Rim, China and India, and demand for base metals. And in the case of precious metals, a response to merger and acquisition activity and the benefit that it typically gets from a weak U.S. dollar.”
Ivanhoe Mines Ltd (IVN.TO) shares rose 3.6 percent to C$17.32 after the owner of the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold project in southern Mongolia said it may sell shares or debt, sell off a subsidiary or look at other options as it develops the mine. [ID:nN06209449]
The TSX’s materials index .GSPTTMT rose 2.49 percent to 351.71 with gold-mining stocks .SPTTGD rising nearly 3 percent by midday, fueled by optimism that demand for commodities will rise further as the global economy recovers from its deepest downturn since the Great Depression.
Copper hit 16-month highs on Wednesday after U.S. new factory orders data added to indications of economic improvement and raised prospects for industrial metals demand. Lead, zinc and tin also hit multi-month highs. [ID:nLDE6050TC]
Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier, said there is optimism that demand from a burgeoning Chinese economy will help push commodity prices even higher.
Chandler said prospects for energy prices also helped lift the market. Energy shares rose about 0.4 percent. Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO), up 0.65 percent at C$38.98, had the biggest positive influence on the index of any energy producer.
“We’ve got oil trading at a multi-month high above $80. It looks like it wants to probably test above $85 and that’s based upon a belief that there’s some health in the economy...and the cold weather that has gripped the east and the belief that there will be a drawdown in energy inventories.”
In other Canadian company news, WestJet Airlines (WJA.TO), the country’s No. 2 carrier, reported a record load factor in the travel-heavy month of December, sending its share price up 2.71 percent to C$13.62. [ID:nN06140571]
Thomson Reuters Corp (TRI.N) shares rose 2.6 percent to C$34.48 after BofA Merrill Lynch started coverage of the company with with a “buy” rating.
Analysts said the market is increasing its focus on Canadian and U.S. jobs data due out on Friday. Economists expect a net gain of 20,000 Canadian jobs for December, a further sign that Canada’s labor market has been improving at a faster pace than the United States.
$1=$1.03 Canadian Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Peter Galloway