CANADA STOCKS-Commodities, profit hopes push TSX to 2-week high
* TSX ends up 60.14 points, or 0.49 percent, at 12,213.24 * Touches highest level since Nov. 12 * Eight of 10 sectors on benchmark index rise By Claire Sibonney TORONTO, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Canadian shares hit their highest point in nearly two weeks in thin trading on Friday, rallying for a sixth straight session on stronger commodity prices 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 the country's six big banks to report profit gains in the area of 10 percent year-over-year. Among the top advancers on Friday, Toronto-Dominion Bank rose 0.5 percent to C$81.40, and Bank of Montreal gained 0.7 percent to C$58.95. Royal Bank edged up 0.2 percent to C$57.95. The Canadian banks have mostly outperformed the broader market over the past month, helped by optimism that their consumer lending and trading businesses will churn out strong profits despite concerns about a housing slowdown and turmoil on international markets. "Part of that is going to be fundamentals-based but it's partly going to be also based on the sentiment of risk-on/risk-off," said Bill Horton, chief investment officer at MD Physician Services. Resource companies were also broadly stronger as commodity prices rose. Talisman Energy climbed 3.8 percent to C$11.68, Barrick Gold gained 1.3 percent to C$35.19, and Canadian Natural Resources advanced 1.1 percent to C$27.94. The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended up 60.14 points, or 0.49 percent, at 12,213.24. Eight of its 10 main sectors were up. Earlier, the index touched 12,229.77, its highest level since Nov. 12. The TSX ended the week almost 3 percent stronger. Optimism about a deal to help Greece, hopes that U.S. lawmakers can agree on a solution to avoid a fiscal crisis, and data showing an improving global economic outlook have driven a rally in riskier asset markets this week. "Our base scenario is similar to what the Bank of Canada is espousing and that is we're looking at a relative containment of the problems in the euro zone and a relative containment of the potential fallout from a U.S. fiscal cliff," Horton said. Greece said on Friday 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 191 million shares changed hands 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," said Sal Masionis, stockbroker at Brant Securities. "Monday will be getting back to reality." On the downside, Research In Motion was one of the biggest drags 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 3.3 percent at C$11.61.
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