* TSX climbs 0.85 percent to 13,551.99
* Energy shares jump 2.74 pct as oil soars on Egypt woes
* Imperial Oil up 4.6 pct on strong results (Adds details)
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index touched its highest level since September 2008 on Monday as the uprising in Egypt sparked a jump in the price of oil and a rally in energy shares.
Brent oil prices surged above $101 a barrel for the first time since 2008, while U.S. crude hit its highest point since October 2008 on concern that unrest in Egypt could spread to crude-producing countries in the Middle East or disrupt Suez Canal flows. [O/R]
As a result, oil and gas companies were among top gainers in Toronto on Monday. Suncor Energy (SU.TO) added 3.55 percent to C$41.46, its highest price since October 2008. Husky Energy (HSE.TO) gained 3.53 percent to C$27, and Talisman Energy TLM.TO rose 3.61 percent to C$22.94.
“It’s all energy,” said Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services.
“My gut tells me that the market has overreacted and a lot of these gains that we’re seeing in the oil stocks will be given back in a month to come.”
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 114.41 points, or 0.85 percent, at 13,551.99. Eight of the index’s 10 sectors were higher, led by a 2.74 percent climb in the oil and gas group.
The index hit a high of 13,588.47 during the day, its highest point since Sept. 2, 2008. The index finished the month up about 0.8 percent, largely because of the Egypt-inspired oil-fueled rally of the past two sessions.
Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) climbed 3.64 percent to C$44.65, erasing losses suffered after production was halted at the company’s oil sands plant more than three weeks ago due to a fire.
Strong North American economic data also brightened market sentiment, as did firm U.S. earnings reports from companies such as energy giant Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N), which owns nearly 70 percent of Imperial Oil.
Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) was also supported by its own stronger than expected quarterly results, boosting its shares 4.57 percent to C$44.65. [ID:nN31215060]
Over the coming weeks other big energy producers are also expected to post stronger fourth-quarter profits due to higher oil prices and improved refining profits, although weak returns from natural gas and pipeline woes may dampen gains. [ID:nN28263754]
Economically sensitive financials were 0.46 percent higher on Monday after data showed stronger-than-expected Canadian economic growth in November. U.S. consumer spending and factory data were also bullish. [ID:nN31223933][ID:nN31151915]
“Canada is becoming a little more attractive in general ... whenever you see some uncertainty, especially coming out of the Middle East and Europe, it definitely gives Canadian financials a little bit of attention, a little bit more stability,” said Youssef Zohny, associate portfolio manager at Van Arbor Asset Management in Vancouver.
Blue-chip decliners were mainly gold-mining shares, which handed back some of last week’s gains as the price of the precious metal recorded its first monthly loss since July. Gold retreated on signs of a receding euro zone debt crisis and a firmer footing for the U.S. economy. [GOL/]
Also dragging on the index, Research In Motion RIM.TO dropped 1.94 percent to C$58.99 after India rejected the company’s offer to allow it partial access to its BlackBerry data services. [ID:nSGE70U08L]
$1=$1.00 Canadian Additional reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Peter Galloway