* TSX up 0.4 percent at 11,682.30
* Barrick leads due to higher profit, spinoff news (Adds details)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock market index was higher on Thursday morning as gold mining shares got a boost from firmer gold prices and better than expected results from Barrick Gold (ABX.TO).
Barrick, the world’s biggest gold miner, led all heavyweight gainers, up 1.29 percent at C$40.16, after it announced plans to spin off its African assets into a new company and said its quarterly operating profit more than doubled on stronger gold prices. [ID:nN18196026]
Meanwhile, the price of gold turned higher, recovering earlier losses, as traders broadly shrugged off news from the IMF that it would begin sales of 191.3 tonnes of gold on the open market.
“The index was buoyed by earnings coming out of the gold producers. They were a gangbuster quarter with the higher gold price helping margins,” said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada.
At 10:15 a.m. (1515 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 46.81 points, or 0.4 percent, at 11,682.30, after opening slightly lower.
The index’s materials group, home to the gold miners, was up 1.37 percent, leading eight of the index’s 10 main groups higher.
U.S. data showing an increase in weekly jobless claims and stronger than expected inflation growth put early pressure on equities because they raised potential barriers to economic recovery. Also putting a damper on the market was a weak outlook from Wal-Mart (WMT.N).
$1=$1.04 Canadian Editing by Peter Galloway