*TSX up 57.69 points, or 0.45 percent, at 12,851.44
*U.S. jobless claims data boosts market
*Maple Leaf Foods plunges after shareholder sells stake (Adds details, quote)
By Jennifer Kwan
TORONTO, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index rose on Wednesday morning as upbeat U.S. economic data yanked market focus away from tensions in Korea and European debt worries.
U.S. data on the labor market and consumer spending pointed to an improving economy, pushing up the index’s financial shares, including Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), which rose 1.1 percent to C$54.61.
New U.S. claims for jobless benefits last week dropped to their lowest level in more than two years, while consumer spending rose in October. [ID:nN24211131]
“The biggest news today is the jobless claims number, which dipped to the lowest level since the recession officially began,” said Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services.
“If we get below 400,000 jobless claims we’re off to the races here and we’ll start seeing some huge employment gains in 2011 for the U.S.”
The U.S. figures helped to boost oil and base metals prices [O/R] [METL/], pulling up resource shares. Teck Resources TCKb.TO, climbed 1.4 percent to C$49.51, and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) was up 0.6 percent at C$39.32.
At 10:02 a.m. (1502 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 57.69 points, or 0.45 percent, at 12,851.44, with most of its 10 main groups higher.
The index had fallen sharply on Tuesday as tensions in the Korean peninsula and euro zone debt concerns pushed down heavily weighted commodity-linked shares.
“We’re all settled and relaxed about the news out of Europe and things seem to be calm, and the market likes calm. On the North Korea and South Korea news, (it) doesn’t look like things are going to escalate any further and the market is reacting to that as well,” Schwartz said.
Maple Leaf Foods (MFI.TO), among the most heavily traded stocks on the market, plunged 11 percent to C$11.33 after its second-largest shareholder sold its entire stake the previous day. [ID:nN24209129]
Cameco Corp (CCO.TO), up 3.5 percent at C$37.27, signed a long-term agreement to supply 29 million pounds of uranium concentrate to China’s state-owned nuclear power company at a time when the Asian superpower steps up its ambitious nuclear power program. [ID:nSGE6AN0DZ]
($1=$1.01 Canadian) (Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; editing by Peter Galloway)