* Hits highest level since July 2008
* TSX ahead 1.06 percent at 14,077.24
* Citigroup raises RIM to “buy”, stock jumps
* Credit Suisse boosts BMO rating, price targets on banks (Updates prices throughout)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index marched to its highest level in 31 months on Wednesday on firm energy issues, while financial stocks and Research In Motion rallied on analysts’ upgrades.
The TSX index rose above the 14,000 mark for the first time since July 7, 2008, aided by a 4.7 percent jump by RIM RIM.TO to C$67.61 after Citigroup raised its rating on the BlackBerry maker by two notches.
Citigroup upgraded its rating on the company to “buy” from “sell”, saying Nokia’s NOK1V.HE much criticized strategy to embrace Microsoft’s (MSFT.O) operating system was making carriers spend more money promoting the BlackBerry maker. [ID:nSGE71F061]
“There’s been positive reviews on RIM, which is helping the TSX,” said Francis Campeau, a broker at MF Global Canada, in Montreal.
He also noted the TSX’s financial group rallied more than 1 percent to hit its highest level since May 2008, ahead of next week’s start of bank earnings.
Meanwhile, Credit Suisse boosted its rating on Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) to “neutral” from “underperform” and raised price targets on five other Canadian banks. [ID:nWNAB2415]
At 2:40 p.m. (1740 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 147.89 points, or 1.06 percent, at 14,077.24, its highest since July 4, 2008.
While the rise beyond 14,000 was “psychologically good,” said Campeau, “the real key” level will be 15,000, which was the highest point the composite reached just before the financial crisis.
“There’s not going to be much resistance from a technical point of view. Resistance will come in around 14,500 and 15,000, that’s where we might start to see some hurdles or longs will start reducing,” he said.
Energy groups were also solid advancers Wednesday afternoon, gaining 1.7 percent. Top risers were Suncor Energy (SU.TO), up 3.65 percent to C$43.40, and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), ahead 4.4 percent at C$46.65.
But Talisman Energy Inc TLM.TO was an outlier in the group. It was down 0.13 percent at C$22.82, trimming early deep losses, after the independent oil producer and explorer posted a wider net loss. [ID:nSGE71F05Z]
Meanwhile, Rogers Communications (RCIb.TO) turned higher after early weakness. The company reported below-forecast results, but the communications heavyweight had also increased its annual dividend by 11 percent. Rogers was up 3.1 percent at C$35.78. [ID:nSGE71F06W]
$1=$0.99 Canadian Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson