* TSX closed up 1.15 percent at 13,751.47
* BMO results help lift financial sector
* Eight of the 10 main sectors higher (Updates with details)
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, May 25 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index powered higher on Wednesday, hitting its firmest level in three weeks, as rising commodity prices bolstered resource stocks and offset persistent economic concerns.
The index’s energy group rose 1.78 percent while the materials sector, home to mining firms, climbed 1.51 percent. The two heavyweight sectors together make up nearly 50 percent of the index.
Fertilizer Potash Corp POT.TO gained 2.9 percent to C$53.25, while Suncor Energy (SU.TO) finished up 2.02 percent at C$40.37. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) rose 1.75 percent to C$41.38. The three resource stocks alone made up nearly 29 points of the index’s rise.
“Looks like (the) risk-on trade seems to be on today. The ones that have been beaten up the most — the energy sector and the materials sector ... they seemed to have come back the strongest,” said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall & MacTier.
“It seemed like it started yesterday with the mighty Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley making a call that energy prices are more likely to rise than to fall.” [ID:nLDE74N1GG]
The price of copper rallied on tight supply on Wednesday, while gold drove to a three-week high. Crude prices climbed 2 percent, hitting two-week highs following an unexpected drop in U.S. distillate inventories. [MET/L] [O/R] [GOL/]
Diversified miner Teck Resources TCKb.TO climbed 2.46 percent to C$48.40, while Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) was up 1.07 percent to C$46.12.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 156.35 points, or 1.15 percent, to 13,751.47. This was the index’s highest close since May 2.
Eight of the 10 main groups were on positive ground, with only telecom and healthcare seeing modest declines.
Fears about the debt crisis in Greece and other euro zone countries, which have created volatility in many of the index’s resource issues, were brushed aside on Wednesday.
Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) played the biggest role of any single stock in leading the market higher. It rose 1.84 percent to C$85.29 and helped lift the influential financial group up 0.86 percent. Five of the country’s biggest banks also made gains.
The financial sector rose after Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) reported a rise in profit, bolstering hopes that the country’s other big banks will also report solid second-quarter results. BMO shares advanced 0.89 percent to C$62.05. [ID:nN24268837]
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see some not stellar, but strong numbers coming out of the banks, so that should settle down that part of the market,” said Paul Gardner, partner and portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management.
Tim Hortons THI.TO was the lead decliner, shedding 1.7 percent to C$45.05 following news that its chief executive had left the company abruptly. [ID:nL3E7GP270]
($1=$0.98 Canadian) (With additional reporting by Ka Yan Ng; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Peter Galloway)