* Toronto stocks end up 1.8 percent in third day of gains
* Index’s 35 percent drop in ‘08 is biggest since 1931
CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index jumped nearly 2 percent on Wednesday, ending the worst year for Canadian stocks since the Great Depression on a positive note as oil prices staged a late-session rally.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 156.98 points, or 1.8 percent, at 8,987.7 in a third-straight session of triple-digit gains.
That still represents a full-year drop of 35 percent, the biggest for the market since 1931, according to TSX figures.
“It’s a positive day for a bad year, and we’ve had a few positive days now,” said Ian Nakamoto, director of research at MacDougall, MacDougall and MacTier in Toronto.
“It’s nice to see green on the screen — meaning go ahead — as opposed to red — stop and rethink your strategy.”
All 10 main sectors ended higher, led by health care, up 4 percent, information technology, up 3 percent, and consumer staples, up 2.5 percent.
Oil prices jumped late in the session to end up $5.57, or 14 percent, at $44.60 a barrel, lifted by concern about fuel supplies this winter due to a slowdown in refinery activity. [ID:nSP253619]
Despite the jump, crude is still down more than $100 a barrel from its high set in July. Analysts have blamed the steep drop in oil and other commodity prices — which where pressured by the global economic crisis — for the brutal year in the stock market.
Before the meltdown, Canada was riding a resource-driven boom with its abundance of oil, minerals and grain.
Among big movers on Wednesday, Research in Motion RIM.TO, maker of the BlackBerry, jumped more than 4 percent to C$49.50.
Labopharm DDS.TO surged 39 percent to C$2.26 after it said it won its first U.S. regulatory approval for the once-daily chronic pain drug Ryzolt. [ID:nN31303720]
Oilexco OIL.TO was the most traded stock and biggest percentage loser on the day, down 68 percent at 28.5 Canadian cents, after the oil explorer said its British unit faced insolvency. [ID:nLV536038]
$1=$1.22 Canadian Reporting by Jeffrey Jones; editing by Rob Wilson