February 13, 2008 / 6:39 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 2-Toronto stocks lifted by US data, Agrium results

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TORONTO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index was up more than 150 points on Wednesday afternoon, gaining steam from hot energy shares and strong results from Agrium Inc AGU.TO.

Investors also digested the latest U.S. economic data that showed retail sales rose unexpectedly in January, boosting hopes that the United States might avoid a recession.

By early afternoon, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 153.11 points, or 1.2 percent, at 13,240.49.

Eight of the TSX index’s 10 main groups were higher, led by a 1.8 percent boost in the big energy group and a 1.2 percent push from the resource-heavy materials group.

“This is a decent trading day for everybody on the heels of some good retail news, which provided a reason to probably look through things and find some good stock picks,” said Brian Pow, vice-president of research at Acumen Capital Partners in Calgary, Alberta.

Among materials issues rising were Agrium, which added C$2.42, to C$65.44, and Barrick Gold (ABX.TO), which rose 33 Canadian cents to C$48.53 despite stagnant gold prices.

Agrium rebounded to a fourth-quarter profit as soaring grain markets created strong demand for fertilizer.

Energy shares climbed on the back of firm U.S. crude oil prices, which rose above $93 a barrel on a smaller-than-expected increase in U.S. stockpiles and on supply worries after Venezuela said it would stop selling crude to Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) due to an intensifying legal dispute over a nationalized oil project.

Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) gained C$2.95 to C$65.94, and EnCana Corp (ECA.TO), which is due to report results on Thursday, rose 56 Canadian cents to C$69.96.

Canadian Natural said on Tuesday costs for its Horizon oil sands project have risen to as much as C$8.7 billion, C$1.9 billion more than initial estimates, as severe cold at its northern Alberta project site has hampered construction. ($1=$1.00 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Peter Galloway)

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