* TSX rises 24.92 points to 11,945.97
* Gold miners take lead, half of TSX’s sectors rise
* Weak U.S. data weighs on investor sentiment (Adds details, quotes)
By Cameron French
TORONTO, June 17 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index rose for a sixth-straight day on Thursday, ending a choppy session higher as strong gold shares offset weaker financial issues, which were pressured by soft U.S. economic data.
Bank and insurance stocks fell 0.45 percent and oil and gas stocks were pressured after factory data in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region was weaker than expected and U.S. jobless claims rose.
“The broader concern is the U.S employment market is not bouncing back,” said Francis Campeau, a broker at MF Global Canada in Montreal.
Concern over the U.S. figures lit a flight-to-safety fire under gold futures, which rose to a record high close of $1,248.70, and helped gold-mining issues rally and drive the index’s materials sector up 1.59 percent.
“They’re strong,” said Bruce Latimer, a trader at Dundee Securities, who noted the index’s gains were due to a late rally. “It’s been a see-saw day... it just seems the market’s been up 10, down 10, up 10, up 10 down 10 in the last few minutes.”
Semafo (SMF.TO) rose 7.4 percent to C$8.47 after the gold miner announced new high-grade drill results in Burkina Faso.
The only gold miner showing notable losses was Gammon Gold GAM.TO, which plunged 9.3 percent to C$7.04 after it said it fired 397 workers and indefinitely suspended operations at its El Cubo mine in Mexico following a dispute with its union.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 24.92 points, or 0.21 percent, at 11,945.97. It rose as high as 11,981.36 during the session, its highest level in a month.
Half of the TSX index’s 10 subgroups ended higher.
MF Global’s Campeau noted the key technical levels to look out for on the TSX index are 11,800 and 12,200. “If we manage to stay in that zone it’s a bullish sign,” he said.
Oil futures pared early gains, putting pressure on energy issues such as Talisman Energy TLM.TO, which dropped 2.1 percent to C$17.67, and Nexen Inc NXY.TO, which fell 1.2 percent to C$22.64.
Dundee’s Latimer said market volumes could decline over the next week as trading floors in Toronto thin out ahead of the G20 summit in the city in just over a week.
Security measures at the event promise to tie up traffic in Toronto’s downtown financial district, prompting some banks to tell employees to work from home.
$1=$1.03 Canadian Reporting by Cameron French, additional reporting by Jennifer Kwan; editing by Peter Galloway