January 25, 2008 / 3:47 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 1-Toronto stocks off early highs, lifted by gold

(Updates with details, analyst comment)

By Jonathan Spicer

TORONTO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index was up on Friday morning, but off earlier highs, as record gold prices and the prospect of further interest rate cuts lifted sentiment.

Gold producers and energy firms were among the biggest weighted gainers as spot gold soared to above $920 an ounce, and crude oil and natural gas futures rose as global worries over a U.S. recession eased.

Investors also priced in the increased likelihood of further rate cuts after Canada’s core inflation rate — a key barometer for decisions on monetary policy — unexpectedly slowed last month. For details, see: [nN25271211]

“I don’t think we’re out of the woods ... but people are picking spots where they can stand in and buy stock,” said Bruce Latimer, trader at Dundee Securities.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 141.09 points, or 1.1 percent, at 13,048.36, with materials leading the way. It was up as much as 264 points just after trading began.

Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) was up C$1.68 at C$52.70 after power cuts shut all of South Africa’s mines, pushing up the price of spot gold.

The materials group climbed 2.6 percent, energy added 1.5 percent, and industrials advanced 0.9 percent.

As it did on Thursday, when it said its quarterly profit doubled, Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO led all weighted gainers, up C$5.18 at C$135.11.

Suncor Energy (SU.TO) added C$1.92 to C$92.42, and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) rose C$1.25 to C$64.51.

On the downside, Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) tumbled 84 Canadian cents to C$66.46 after New Jersey-based Commerce Bancorp Inc (CBH.N), which TD is acquiring, said fourth-quarter profit fell and credit losses quintupled. For details, see: [nN25329471]

Interest rates have been center stage for stock markets after the U.S. Fed chopped its key rate by 75 basis points on Tuesday, followed an hour later by a 25 basis-point rate shave in Canada.

The TSX index has swung in a wide, 1,200-point range this week in very volatile trade.

$1=$1.00 Canadian Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Peter Galloway

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