February 13, 2008 / 9:41 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 3-Toronto stocks rise sharply, helped by Agrium, RIM

(Updates numbers, adds details, quotes)

TORONTO, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index climbed sharply on Wednesday, boosted by gains in Agrium Inc and Research In Motion, and unexpectedly positive U.S. retail data.

Agricultural products supplier Agrium ABU.TO rose C$2.87, or 4.6 percent, to C$66.00 after it reported a fourth-quarter profit, helped by increasing demand and prices for fertilizer.

Research In Motion RIM.TO, the maker of the BlackBerry, also helped yank the index higher as it rose C$4.88, or 5.3 percent, to C$96.52, making it the day’s biggest net gainer.

Enthusiasm over a surprise rise of 0.3 percent in U.S. retail sales for January spilled over to the Toronto benchmark, as investors hoped the economy south of the border is proving more resilient than expected.

“The retail numbers set the tone early and everybody’s jumped on it,” said John Kinsey, portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities Ltd. “I think the retail numbers were obviously good and better than expected, and people have been hoping for some good news for a change.”

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 194.92 points, or 1.49 percent, at 13,282.30 with all of its 10 main groups in positive territory.

The heavyweight energy sector moved up 2.1 percent, while oil prices continued to move higher after Venezuela cut off oil sales to Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) as a dispute over a nationalized oil project intensified.

Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) added C$2.26, or 3.6 percent, to C$65.25, and Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) was up C$1.56, or 3 percent, at C$53.28.

Agrium’s advance helped the materials sector rise 1.5 percent, while its gold producers subindex rose 1.6 percent.

The tech sector gained 5.1 percent, lifted by RIM and Nortel Networks’s NT.TO rise of C$1.28, or 12.4 percent, to C$11.61. Nortel’s chief executive told a German newspaper that the company will look at possible takeover opportunities as they come, but declined comment on this week’s media reports of a unit merger with Motorola MOT.TO.

$1=$1.00 Canadian Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Peter Galloway

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