March 23, 2009 / 9:01 PM / in 9 years

CANADA STOCKS-TSX hits 6-week high on Petro-Canada, US bank plan

* TSX jumps 452.16 points to 8,958.51

* Petro-Canada takeover buoys energy shares

* U.S. bank plan cheered by investors (Adds details, comments and official numbers)

By Frank Pingue

TORONTO, March 23 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index surged more than 5 percent on Monday to its highest close in six weeks as a massive takeover of Petro-Canada PCA.TO and a U.S. plan to rid banks of toxic assets helped boost sentiment.

Energy shares raced higher as the price of oil, a key Canadian commodity, hit a three-month high, while Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) agreed to buy rival Petro-Canada for C$18.43 billion. [ID:nN22497404]

Shares of Petro-Canada PCA.TO, a key contributor to the Toronto market’s gain, soared 20.4 percent to C$35.70, while EnCana Corp (ECA.TO) jumped 8 percent to C$55.50.

Another key factor behind the gains was the U.S. plan to buy up to $1 trillion in toxic financial assets, a move that will be critical to hopes for a U.S. economic recovery. [ID:nSP429491]

“This is the most credible plan I’ve seen from the U.S. Treasury to date and it looks like the private sector and the stock market is buying into it,” said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier. “For me, this is some validation that there is some meat on the bones here.”

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE rose 452.16 points, or 5.32 percent, to close at a session high of 8,958.51.

All 10 of the TSX’s sectors ended comfortably higher. The financials index led with a 8.9 percent gain, while the energy group followed with a rise of 7.4 percent.

Shares of Canadian banks and insurers followed their U.S. counterparts higher as the U.S. bailout plan helped boost optimism about a revival in U.S. bank lending, and the sentiment spilled over to Canada.

Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), the main driver of the TSX’s gain, rose 7.6 percent to C$37.94, while shares of insurer Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) posted a 15.8 percent rise to C$16.26.

The broad-based rally extends a torrid stretch of gains by the TSX, which has closed higher in nine of its past 10 sessions. The index is now nearly 20 percent above the five-year lows it saw earlier this month.

Capping Monday’s rally was weakness in some key gold-mining stocks, which fell alongside the price of bullion as optimistic investors stepped away from safe haven investments such as gold.

Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) shares dropped 2 percent to C$40.54, while Goldcorp (G.TO) slid 1 percent to C$41.82

$1=$1.22 Canadian Editing by Rob Wilson

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