* TSX gains 0.12 percent to 11,568.96
* Extends five-session advance
* Financials lead gains, commodities mixed (Adds details)
TORONTO, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index firmed on Thursday morning after initial volatility, adding to gains from the last five sessions on a growing taste for riskier assets.
The financials group was a major influence on the broader market, rising 0.58 percent, with Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) leading the way with a 2.1 percent climb to C$22.10.
Investors heard executives speaking at a financial services conference on Wednesday that Canada’s biggest banks were weighing options for using their excess capital, with acquisition opportunities, dividend increases and share buybacks under consideration. [ID:nN16136744] The conference continued on Thursday, with insurers in the spotlight.
“The market has got some momentum,” said Peter Chandler, senior vice-president at Canaccord Capital in Waterloo, Ontario.
“The other thing too is that there’s lot of money on the sidelines still, and fixed income markets and interest rates are pretty benign and low. That means that’s not acting as competition for the markets.
He said attractive sectors are infrastructure and the energy and materials complex as a whole.
At 10:40 a.m. (1440 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 13.36 points, or 0.12 percent, at 11,568.96. Half of the index’s 10 main groups were higher, including the hefty materials sector, which rose 0.04 percent largely on fertilizer stocks.
Potash Corp POT.TO rose 2.8 percent to C$103.16, while Agrium AGU.TO gained 2.6 percent to C$57.13.
Investors were also monitoring key commodity prices. Oil prices approached $73 a barrel, while gold hit 18-month highs for a second consecutive session, but then eased.
Big stocks such as EnCana (ECA.TO) and Goldcorp (G.TO) came under pressure, each falling more than 0.5 percent.
The markets were also supported by data on the U.S. labor and housing markets, which reinforced the outlook that the economic recovery was gaining momentum.
Inflation data in Canada had little impact. It showed prices fell by 0.8 percent in August compared with a year earlier, the second-largest 12-month drop in over 50 years. [ID:nN17185718]
($1=$1.07 Canadian) (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson)