April 15, 2008 / 8:57 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 2-Record oil price help boost Toronto stocks

(Updates with official closing numbers, adds details, quotes)

TORONTO, April 15 (Reuters) - A record high for oil prices drove the Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index higher on Tuesday, with stronger resource issues overshadowed lingering worries about a weak earnings season.

Toronto’s energy sector gained 1.8 percent as crude prices surged amid supply worries and weakness in the U.S. dollar. U.S. oil prices settled $2.03 higher at $113.79 a barrel, before hitting a record of $114.08 in late electronic trade.

Suncor Energy (SU.TO) was up C$2.37, or 2.2 percent, at C$112.12 and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) gained C$1.21, or 1.5 percent, to C$83.53.

“It’s a familiar theme yet again,” said Elvis Picardo, investment strategist at Northern Securities Inc in Vancouver. “It’s energy and materials driving the upside and that’s more than offsetting some weakness in the financials and info tech index.”

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 112.35 points, or 0.82 percent, at 13,850.95 with six of its 10 main groups in an upswing.

The materials sector, home to resource shares, also helped lift the benchmark with a gain of 1.8 percent. Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO rose C$2.80, or 1.5 percent, to C$188.15, and Agrium AGU.TO gained C$2.41, or 3.1 percent, to C$80.50.

The sector’s gold producer subindex rose 1.6 percent, lifted by strengthening bullion prices. Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) advanced 55 Canadian cents, or 1.3 percent, to C$44.40 and Goldcorp (G.TO) moved up C$1.28, or 3.1 percent, to C$42.07.

On the downside, the lightweight tech sector slipped 0.9 percent, hurt by falling shares of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates MDA.TO, which were off 60 Canadian cents, or 1.4 percent, at C$43.29. Last week, the Canadian government blocked the sale of MDA’s satellite unit to U.S. company Alliant Techsystems ATK.N.

Also in the sector, contract electronics maker Celestica (CLS.TO) was down 45 Canadian cents, or 6.3 percent, at C$6.67.

Despite the day’s strong advance, Picardo said concerns remain that quarterly corporate results will be weak — a fact that was underscored last week by an unexpected decline in profit at bellwether General Electric (GE.N).

“I think the key driver is going to be corporate earnings,” said Picardo. “We’re just beginning to see numbers come out and, frankly, they haven’t been terribly encouraging.”

$1=$1.02 Canadian Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Rob Wilson

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