* TSX ends up 0.5 percent at 11,694.84
* Barrick leads due to higher profit, spinoff news (Adds details, closing numbers, quotes)
By John McCrank
TORONTO, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index finished higher for a seventh straight session on Thursday, led by gold mining shares, which got a boost from better than expected results from Barrick Gold (ABX.TO).
Barrick, the world’s biggest gold miner, led all heavyweight gainers, up 3.3 percent at C$40.94, 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]
Goldcorp (G.TO) and Kinross Gold (K.TO) were also among the top gainers, rising 1.1 percent to C$40.86, and 1.7 percent to C$19.68 respectively. Gold producers have posted strong results this earnings season thanks in part to soaring bullion prices. [ID:nN17157078]
Gold prices also ended higher after a choppy session in the wake of the International Monetary Fund’s announcement it would sell 191.3 tonnes of gold to the open market to boost resources for lending. [ID:nLDE61H11C]
Gold “kind of sold off late in the day yesterday because of the IMF announcement and then I think cooler heads prevailed and realized that’s really not that much gold for sale,” said Paul Hand, managing director at RBC Capital Markets.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 59.35 points, or 0.51 percent, at 11,694.84. Eight of the index’s 10 main groups rose, led by the materials group, which includes gold miners, up 1.2 percent.
“Investor sentiment has risen over the past couple of weeks,” said Luc Girard, director of the portfolio advisory group at Desjardins Securities, in Montreal.
“It’s about optimism over the economy,” he said, adding that around three-quarters of the companies on the S&P 500 that have released results so far have beaten expectations.
Early on in the session, data showing stronger than expected inflation growth put pressure on equities, but investors largely brushed it off as the central bank was not expected to raise interest rates any time soon. [ID:nN18188082]
In financials, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd FFH.TO said it will buy all the shares of U.S. insurer Zenith National Insurance Corp ZNT.N that it does not already own in a deal worth about $1.4 billion.
Shares of Fairfax ended up 2 percent at C$374.99.
$1=$1.04 Canadian Editing by Rob Wilson