(Updates trading, adds details, quotes)
TORONTO, April 14 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index pushed higher on Monday morning, propelled by strong energy shares that offset concern over further fallout from the credit crisis.
The oil and gas sector led gains as oil prices bounced amid supply disruptions in the United States and Nigeria. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) was up C$2.79, or 3.6 percent, at C$81.18, and Suncor Energy (SU.TO) rose C$2.24, or 2.1 percent, to C$109.06. The overall sector added 2 percent.
Peter Chandler, senior vice-president at Canaccord Capital in Waterloo, Ontario, said he expects the focus of the Canadian market to continue to be on oil and gas shares, but noted that there is concern over how the high price of oil will effect the consumer.
“The suggestion is that maybe the way you play it in the market is you ramp up energy exposure, and that probably plays favorably for the Canadian market because of the heavy weighting for the energy sector.”
Rallying from a soft start, the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 78.98 points, or 0.58 percent, at 13,762.01, with six of its 10 main sectors higher.
The materials sector, home to resource shares, climbed amid gains in fertilizer companies Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO and Agrium AGU.TO. Potash Corp was up C$4.20, or 2.3 percent, at C$186.89, and Agrium gained C$4.14, or 5.7 percent, to C$77.33, while the sector rose 0.7 percent.
A solid second-quarter earnings report helped broadcaster Astral Media ACMa.TO rise 11 Canadian cents, or 0.3 percent, to C$36.17. Profits were buoyed by its purchase of Standard Radio.
The financial sector led declines, off 0.6 percent, as it was caught in fallout from the credit squeeze south of the border after Wachovia Corp <WB.N reported an unexpected first-quarter loss.
Investors will be keeping a close eye on earnings from key U.S. companies this week in an attempt to gauge the health of the economy, as companies including Intel Corp (INTC.O) and Google (GOOG.O) are set to report.
“I think you’re going to see the market gravitating on what those earnings results are,” said Chandler, adding that for financials, investors are going to be looking for “how big the writedowns are (and) the provisions and the statements that they make going forward.”
Shares of Vasogen VAS.TO dived 19 Canadian cents, or 26 percent, to 54 Canadian cents after it said it will slash its staff by 85 percent and suspend funding new studies for its Celacade heart failure treatment, while it moves focus to a new areas of drugs.
$1=$1.02 Canadian Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Peter Galloway