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By Leah Schnurr
TORONTO, Feb 22 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index finished higher on Friday thanks to a late-day rally by financial shares and gains by the energy sector.
After a see-saw session, the index climbed strongly higher shortly before the close amid reports that banks were close to an agreement on a rescue plan for U.S. bond insurer Ambac Financial Group Inc ABK.N. A source said the deal could be announced early next week.
The financial sector rose 1 percent, with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) adding C$1.86, or 2.8 percent, to C$67.61 and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) up 84 Canadian cents, or 1.3 percent, at C$67.18.
The health of bond insurers amid the credit crunch has been a source of worry for investors recently and a report from CNBC television about a possible bailout helped lift stocks on both sides of the border.
“Ambac looks like there’s some kind of a deal done with those banks that should be announced Monday or Tuesday — that’s what (CNBC) said — and that’s all of a sudden changed the whole psychology of (the market),” said Sal Masionis, a stockbroker at Brant Securities.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 76.38 points, or 0.57 percent, at 13,585.93 with seven of its 10 main sectors in positive territory. In choppy action, the index fell more than 100 points earlier in the day.
Bay Street was up 2.7 percent for the week, which was shortened by Ontario’s Family Day holiday on Monday.
Gains in the energy sector also supported the benchmark, adding 1 percent. Crude moved up 58 cents to $98.81 a barrel amid cold weather in the U.S. Northeast and on geopolitical tensions following an incursion into Iraq by Turkish troops.
Petro-Canada PCA.TO rose 32 Canadian cents, or 0.7 percent, to C$47.45 and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) was up 42 Canadian cents, or 0.6 percent, at C$68.62.
CHC Helicopter FLYa.TO was the TSX’s biggest net gainer after it said it had agreed to be bought for about C$1.5 billion from private equity firm First Reserve Corp. The total value of the deal, including debt and leases for aircraft, is C$3.7 billion.
CHC, the world’s largest provider of helicopter services to the offshore oil and gas industry, soared C$8.37, or 38.3 percent, to C$30.25.
On the downside, the materials sector slid 0.2 percent while platinum and gold prices eased.
Kinross Gold (K.TO) was down 47 Canadian cents, or 2 percent, at C$23.37, and Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM.TO) fell 77 Canadian cents, or 1.2 percent, to C$65.79. The gold-producers subindex lost 0.5 percent.
Elsewhere, shares of Rogers Communications Inc (RCIb.TO) gained 19 Canadian cents, or 0.5 percent, to C$39.19 after it said fourth-quarter profit rose 44 percent amid growth in its wireless subscriber base and increased revenue from mobile-phone users.
Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO) said it had received approval from its board to seek customers for its proposed CSeries jet, a key move in its $2.5 billion plan to develop a new 110- to 130-seat airliner. The plane and train maker’s class B shares closed down 10 Canadian cents, or 1.8 percent, at C$5.62
Market volume was 395 million shares worth C$6.5 billion. Advancers outpaced decliners 819 to 754. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed up 4.97 points, or 0.63 percent, at 797.52.
On Wall Street, stocks also saw a late-day rally as optimism over a rescue plan for Ambac helped pull stocks out of negative territory.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI ended up 96.72 points, or 0.79 percent, at 12,381.02, while the Nasdaq composite index .IXIC rose 3.57 points, or 0.16 percent, to 2,303.35.
$1=$1.01 Canadian Editing by Rob Wilson