CANADA STOCKS-TSX near 18-month high, buoyed by Agrium, RIM

Thu Jan 24, 2013 11:34am EST

* TSX rises 41.36 points, or 0.32 percent, to 12,835.41
    * Seven of 10 main sectors advance
    * Agrium up 3.5 percent on outlook boost
    * RIM rises on report of Lenovo interest

    By John Tilak
    TORONTO, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index hit a
near 18-month high on Thursday, as shares of Agrium Inc 
rose after the fertilizer maker raised its profit forecast and
as U.S. manufacturing and labor data drove optimism on the
economic outlook of Canada's largest trade partner.
    Shares of Research In Motion Ltd also boosted the
market, rising more than 3 percent after a report that China's
Lenovo Group said a bid for the BlackBerry maker was
among the options available to boost its mobile business.
 
    Canadian stocks were also supported by data that showed
Chinese manufacturing growth hit a two-year high this month.
Gains were kept in check by falling gold stocks, which slipped
with the price of the precious metal. 
    In the United States, a private survey showed that factory
activity advanced at the fastest pace in nearly two years this
month, while the government reported the number of Americans
filing new claims for jobless benefits hit a five-year low last
week. 
    "There's a growing feeling that we're heading in the right
direction. The U.S. economy is showing a little bit of life, and
that's spilling over into Canada," said Fred Ketchen, director
of equity trading at ScotiaMcLeod.
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 was up 41.36 points, or 0.32 percent, at 12,835.41,
after touching 12,863.47, its highest since Aug. 2, 2011.
    Seven of the 10 main sectors on the index were trading
higher. 
    The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, slipped
0.1 percent as declines in gold stocks offset a rise in shares
of fertilizer giants Agrium and Potash Corp.
    Agrium rose 3.5 percent to C$114.55 after it raised its
fourth-quarter earnings forecast as strong grain and oilseed
prices spurred demand for its fertilizer products over the fall
season. 
    Ketchen, noting the activity in Agrium shares over the past
few days, said, "People are taking another look at it, thinking
maybe it's time to get back in." 
    Potash was up 2.1 percent at C$42.77.
    The energy sector gained 0.6 percent and was the biggest
contributor to the market's gains as U.S. crude oil prices rose.
 
    Canadian Natural Resources Ltd rose 1.5 percent to
C$30.62.
    Financials, the index's weightiest sector, added 0.4
percent. Toronto Dominion Bank was up 0.4 percent at
C$83.51, and the Royal Bank of Canada rose 0.3 percent
to C$61.62.
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