*TSX up 4.76 points at 12,048.43
*Four out of 10 index sectors higher; gold shares down (Updates with details, commentary)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index was little changed on Thursday morning after data signaled the U.S. economy may see more growth than anticipated, which boosted oil and financial stocks, but spurred losses in safe-haven gold.
New U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell well below expectations last week to a two-month low, while the U.S. trade deficit narrowed sharply in July, hopeful signs for economic recovery. [ID:nN09174403]
After the data, U.S. crude oil futures prices rose toward $76 a barrel, sending Toronto energy shares 0.7 percent higher. Suncor Energy (SU.TO) jumped 2.1 percent to C$33.90, and EnCana Corp (ECA.TO) gained 0.4 percent to C$29.87.
“This is the second week that we’ve seen a drop in first-time jobless claims. While the numbers still remain stubbornly high, at least it is starting to move in the right direction,” said Philip Petursson, managing director of the portfolio advisory at MFC Global Investment Management.
“I call that the lowest common denominator in terms of U.S. economic health. It all starts with jobs and then it goes from there.”
The U.S. data, however, robbed gold of some of its safe-haven luster, sending heavily weighted gold mining shares down 1.1 percent. [GOL/]
“It’s kind of the counter trade, the fight to quality and in absence of renewed fears we could see gold sell off a little bit,” Petursson said.
At 10:29 a.m. (1429 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 4.76 points at 12,048.43. Four of its 10 groups were higher.
Canadian tour operator Transat A.T. Inc TRZb.TO rallied almost 5 percent to C$14.37 after reporting higher-than-expected quarterly results, helped by an increase in travelers and higher prices in the transatlantic market. [ID:nSGE6880H2]
$1=$1.03 Canadian Editing by Peter Galloway