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By Leah Schnurr
TORONTO, April 17 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index finished a little higher on Thursday, as financials got a boost from mild inflation data, while investors took profits following a steep advance in the previous session.
The financial sector added 0.8 percent, after data showed the inflation rate in March was at its lowest level since July 2005, allowing the Bank of Canada room to further cut interest rates.
“The market’s up a little, largely on financials, and I think that’s really in response to greater confidence that the Bank of Canada has room to cut rates next week,” said Kate Warne, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.
“People were a bit worried there might be higher inflation and that that would make the Bank of Canada reluctant to cut rates.”
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 16.02 points, or 0.11 percent, at 14,115.50 with half its 10 main sectors higher.
But gains were hampered by a retreat in the materials sector, including Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (POT.TO), which fell C$1.62, or 0.8 percent, to C$196.88 after its recent spectacular run-up.
The fertilizer company vaulted more than 5 percent on Wednesday amid a surge in the price of potash exports to China, and helped the index as a whole soar nearly 250 points.
Overall, the materials sector declined 1 percent on Thursday, as its subindex of gold producers gave up 1.3 percent amid softer bullion prices. Inmet Mining IMN.TO was down C$2.11, or 2.1 percent, at C$96.50, and Goldcorp (G.TO) slid 63 Canadian cents, or 1.5 percent, to C$42.79.
“I think it’s fair to say some people are trying to take some money off the table,” said Lex Kerkovius, senior research analyst at McLean & Partners Wealth Management Ltd in Calgary.
“We need these markets to get a direction going here. With the S&P closing in on a technical barrier again, we’re going to have to wait and see if it breaks out or not.”
On the upside, the energy sector rose 0.3 percent after oil hit a new peak over $115 a barrel, before settling down 7 cents at $114.86. Suncor Energy (SU.TO) was up C$1.92, or 1.7 percent, at C$116.30 and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) gained 86 Canadian cents, or 1 percent, to C$85.01.
Shares of Angiotech Pharmaceuticals ANP.TO added 37 Canadian cents, or 13.3 percent, to C$3.16 after it said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the marketing of its drug-eluting catheter in the United States. The small health sector gained 2.5 percent.
Market volume was 356 million shares worth C$6.7 billion. Advancers outpaced decliners 812 to 773. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed up 1.51 points, or 0.18 percent, at 834.12.
In New York, stocks closed flat, with the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI eking out a gain of 1.22 points, or 0.01 percent, to 12,620.49. The Nasdaq composite index .IXIC ended down 8.28 points, or 0.35 percent, at 2,341.83.
$1=$1.01 Canadian Reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Rob Wilson