February 28, 2008 / 9:45 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 3-Toronto stocks get lift from commodity surge

(Updates with official closing numbers, adds detail)

TORONTO, Feb 28 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index ended higher on Thursday, spurred by resource issues as commodity prices surged and oil company Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) said its profit more than doubled.

Prices for both oil and gold, key underlying commodities for the resource-heavy Toronto market, hit new highs while the U.S. dollar fell to record lows. Oil settled at $102.59 a barrel after earlier racing to $102.97 after a fire at a major European natural gas terminal.

Toronto’s energy sector advanced 2.4 percent, while Canadian Natural was up C$3.38, or 4.7 percent, at C$75.20 after the company reported strong fourth-quarter results, helped by soaring oil prices.

Also in the oil patch, Suncor Energy (SU.TO) rose C$3.30, or 3.3 percent, to C$103.95, and Canadian Oil Sands Trust COS_u.TO added C$1.32, or 3.2 percent, to C$43.00.

The gold producers subindex was up 2 percent, boosted by a record high for bullion as spot gold moved as high as $969 an ounce before easing slightly to $968.90. Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) was up C$1.40, or 2.8 percent, at C$52.00.

The larger materials group also pushed up 2 percent, with Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO rising C$2.76, or 1.8 percent, to C$158.78 and Teck Cominco TCKb.TO gaining C$2.06, or 5.3 percent, to C$41.19.

The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 95.51 points, or 0.69 percent, at 13,873.89 with six of its 10 main sectors moving higher.

On the downside, declines in shares of Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) weighed on the benchmark amid jitters that more writedowns are possible at both banks.

BMO was down C$1.65, or 3.1 percent, at C$52.35 after ratings agency DBRS downgraded the notes of two troubled commercial paper trusts the bank is exposed to, prompting worries of writeoffs.

CIBC shed C$1.05, or 1.5 percent, to C$67.95 as executives acknowledged that more writedowns may be needed. CIBC reported a hefty first-quarter loss after taking charges due to its exposure to the troubled U.S. mortgage market. The financial group overall was down 0.8 percent.

Also in the negative, the consumer discretionary group shed 1.4 percent, while Quebecor Inc (QBRb.TO) gave up C$1.15, or 3.7 percent, at C$30.10.

$1=$0.98 Canadian Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Peter Galloway

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