CANADA STOCKS-Hopes for Greece, earnings lift TSX to 2-week high

Fri Nov 23, 2012 10:55am EST

* TSX up 72.70 points, or 0.6 percent, at 12,225.80
    * Touches highest level since Nov. 12
    * Eight of 10 sectors on benchmark index rise

    By Claire Sibonney
    TORONTO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Canadian shares hit its highest
point in nearly two weeks in thin and choppy trading on Friday,
rallying for a sixth straight session on cautious optimism that
Greece's lenders were nearing an agreement that will release aid
and on earnings expectations for financial stocks.
    Financial shares also advanced for a sixth day ahead of the
quarterly reporting season for Canadian banks.  
    Bank results will be released over the next two weeks, with
Royal Bank of Canada the first to report, on Nov. 29.
Analysts expect a steady year-over-year profit gain for the
group, driven by stronger capital markets-related results.
    Among the top advancers, Bank of Montreal gained
1.2 percent to C$59.23, Toronto-Dominion Bank rose 0.8
percent to C$81.60, and Royal Bank added 0.5 percent to C$58.07.
    "That's in anticipation of the earnings and so I think,
hopefully, we'll have reasonable earnings, or meet the earnings
expectations," said Sal Masionis, stockbroker at Brant
Securities.
    At 10:25 a.m. (1525 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's
S&P/TSX composite index was up 72.70 points, or 0.6
percent, at 12,225.80. Eight of its 10 main sectors were up.
Earlier, the index touched 12,229.77, its highest level since
Nov. 12.
    Helping to lift sentiment, Greece said the International
Monetary Fund had relaxed its debt-cutting target for the
country, suggesting lenders were closer to a deal for a vital
aid tranche to be paid. But other sources involved in the talks
cautioned the funding gap was far bigger than Greece suggested.
 
    Separately, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi
said confidence was returning to the euro zone, and governments
must implement reforms to secure the bloc's future.
 
    With U.S. trading ending early at 1:00 p.m.(1800 GMT) on
Friday, volume on both sides of the border was light. About 59
million shares had changed hands by midmorning on the Toronto
Stock Exchange, compared with a daily average of 281.9 million
in October.
    "I don't think minds are in the market, especially here in
Toronto with the Grey Cup (Canadian Football League
championship), shopping, Black Friday, you name it ... nobody's
around," Masionis said.
    "Monday will be getting back to reality."
    On the downside, Research In Motion was the biggest
drag after a stunning gain the previous session. After surging
17 percent on Thursday on the back of optimism about the
prospects for the company's soon-to-be-launched BlackBerry 10
smartphones, RIM shares were down 4 percent at C$11.49.