* TSX up 0.75 percent at 11,464.57
* 8 of index’s 10 subgroups rise, energy leads the way (Adds details, comments)
By Cameron French
TORONTO, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index pushed higher on Thursday, helped by strong U.S. and Canadian trade data as well as a sharp rise in natural gas prices, which drove up oil and gas producers.
Gas futures jumped 8 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange, spurred by cold weather forecasts and reports of shrinking inventories. [ID:nN10213740]
In Toronto, Suncor Energy (SU.TO) rose 3.3 percent to C$36.80, while Talisman Energy TLM.TO gained 2.9 percent to C$18.02. The index’s energy sector ended the session up 1.79 percent.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed 85.35 points, or 0.75 percent, higher at 11,464.57. Eight of its 10 subgroups rose on the day.
For the second straight day, the index rose sharply in the final hours of trading, which is a sign that cautious investors are gaining confidence at current levels, said Elvis Picardo, analyst at Global Securities in Vancouver.
“It does seem that optimism is getting the upper hand here because you’re seeing the market able to hold on to the gains as we go into the close,” he said.
That confidence was helped by data showing that Canada unexpectedly returned to a trade surplus in October after three months of deficits [ID:nN10154628], and that the U.S. trade deficit shrank 7.6 percent in the month as a weak U.S. dollar boosted exports. [ID:nN10156007].
The index hit a 14-month high last week, but has come well off that level since then despite Thursday’s gains.
Analysts say some of that weakness could be due to tax-loss selling — divesting losing stocks to count the loss against capital gains taxes — but suggested the market could flatten out as market players book off early for year-end holidays.
“Liquidity sort of dries up in the marketplace as we go into the later part of December,” said Paul Harris, portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management.
“It’s going to cause a damper on the marketplace and any kind of big swing will not happen.”
Besides energy, other sectors rising a percent or more were consumer discretionary, up 1.1 percent, utilities, which rose 1 percent, and industrials, which also gained 1 percent.
Among consumer discretionary issues, Gildan Activewear (GIL.TO) surged 10.9 percent to C$23.34 after the T-shirt maker said it will consider spending its mounting pile of cash on a share buyback, a dividend, or acquisitions.
The TSX materials sector, meanwhile, slid 0.25 percent, led lower by gold-mining issues as the precious metal rose slightly but continued to trade well off the record highs it hit a week ago.
New Gold (NGD.TO) slid 3.9 percent to C$3.47, while industry bigwig Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) retreated 1 percent to C$43.09.
($1=$1.05 Canadian) (Reporting by Cameron French; editing by Peter Galloway)