* TSX up 11.26 points, or 0.09 percent, at 12,100.66
* Energy leads index higher with oil above $83
* Poll shows TSX flat at mid-year, rising by year-end (Updates to close, adds details and quotes)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, March 17 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index closed higher on Wednesday, hitting its highest point since September 2008 earlier in the day, as commodity prices rose after the U.S. Federal Reserve’s renewed pledge to keep interest rates low for an extended period.
Energy producers led the gains as oil rose toward $83 a barrel, supported by a weaker U.S. dollar [ID:nN17169695] and higher demand in the United States, while OPEC decided to leave output targets unchanged. [O/R]
Suncor Energy (SU.TO), Canada’s biggest oil company, rose 2.4 percent to C$32.12, while Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) added almost 1 percent at C$74.69.
“As long as the Fed is keeping interest rates low, it’s making everyone quite comfortable in terms of having cheap money out there,” said Youssef Zohny, associate portfolio manager at Van Arbor Asset Management in Vancouver.
Offsetting gains in the energy sector, materials were down 0.28 percent on softer gold prices.
Financials also retreated on uncertainty over proposed, stricter banking regulation in the United States. Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) fell 0.6 percent to C$74.54, while Royal Bank of Canada <RY.TO, the country’s biggest bank, was unchanged at C$59.46. Both banks have large U.S. operations.
“I think what you’re seeing is not only potentially the Volcker rule coming in but potentially tempering a bit of risk-taking for a lot of banks and I think that’s probably being taken as negative,” added Zohny.
The proposed “Volcker rule”, first introduced by U.S. President Barack Obama early this year as a way to rein in overly speculative investments, would curb proprietary trading at U.S. banks and force them out of the hedge fund business.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 11.26 points, or 0.09 percent, at 12,100.66. Earlier, it touched 12,122.47, its highest level in 17 weeks.
In a Reuters poll published on Wednesday, respondents said the TSX will likely remain flat into the middle of the year then push higher toward the end of 2010, supported by its heavy weighting in resource issues as the economy slowly heals. [EPOLL/CA]
($1=$1.01 Canadian) (Reporting by Claire Sibonney;editing by Rob Wilson)