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