* TSX rises 66.01 points to 13,449.17
* Miners, fertilizer firms lead index higher
* Potash Corp surges 4.5 percent
* Baffinland flat after Nunavut Iron raises bid (Adds Baffinland bid, rare earth miners)
By Claire Sibonney
NEW YORK, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index rose on Wednesday, hitting a two-year peak on the back of a broad rally among miners and fertilizer companies, including Potash Corp of Saskatchewan POT.TO.
The materials group led the gains, advancing 2.2 percent, as copper climbed to record highs in Europe and gold edged above $1,400 an ounce.
Barrick Gold ABX.TO was up 2 percent at C$53.13, while Teck Resources TCKb.TO rose 2.6 percent to C$59.91.
Fertilizer producer Potash Corp jumped 4.5 percent to C$152.56, getting a boost from speculation that corn and soybean futures would rise further next year. Farm products company Agrium Inc AGU.TO shot 4.3 percent higher to C$90.22.
“Sentiment certainly seems to be positive but I think we definitely need to keep in mind that we have a couple more trading days to go before the end of the year and volumes are extremely light,” said Elvis Picardo, analyst and strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.
“This is typically how the markets end, but January tends to be a different story. The expectations are a little more realistic coming into the beginning of the year.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 66.01 points, or 0.49 percent, at 13,449.17. It was the index’s highest close since August 2008.
Canadian markets were closed Monday and Tuesday for the Christmas holidays, and market players said some of the gains were from the TSX playing catch-up to buoyant U.S. markets.
The TSX has gained almost 4 percent so far this month and almost 15 percent for the year.
“We are looking at 2011 being more of a continuation of 2010 ... a new year but not necessarily a new story,” said Stephen Wood, chief investment strategist at Russell Investments, speaking from Madison, Wisconsin.
“If you look at the U.S. which is probably the single most important non-Canadian economy to a Canadian perspective, I think the U.S. has a chance of being one of the more positive surprises for 2011.”
Among the decliners, the technology group was off 0.5 percent with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion RIM.TO slipping 1.2 percent to C$58.15.
The heavyweight energy and financial sectors were little changed.
Baffinland Iron Mines BIM.TO see-sawed throughout the day before ending unchanged at C$1.34 after Nunavut Iron Ore sweetened its hostile bid for the junior miner in a tug of war with steel giant ArcelorMittal ISPA.AS. At stake is the vast Mary River iron ore deposit in the Canadian Arctic. [ID:nN29275653]
Shares of junior miners with rare earth prospects gained sharply as manufacturers and investors eyed alternative producers of the minerals after main supplier China slashed export quotas of the key materials used in high-tech products such as smartphones. [ID:nN29274617]
Avalon Rare Metals AVL.TO was one of the index’s biggest gainers by percentage terms, soaring 44 percent to C$6.57.
$1=$1 Canadian Editing by Rob Wilson