CANADA STOCKS-TSX rises as U.S. data outweighs weaker gold
* TSX up 38.67 points, or 0.31 percent, at 12,699.11 * Seven of 10 main sectors advance * Sears Canada falls 4 percent after results By John Tilak TORONTO, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was firmer on Wednesday as gains in oil and gas shares offset weakness in miners, with investors scanning another round of testimony by U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for clues about the central bank's stimulus plans. The market was also supported by more data signaling a healthier U.S. economy: U.S. non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, jumped 6.3 percent in January, the biggest gain in more than a year. That helped alleviate uncertainty on world markets spurred by the inconclusive results of this week's parliamentary elections in Italy. "You have strong durable goods orders that are indicating that the U.S. economy is on the right track," said Philip Petursson, managing director, portfolio advisory group, at Manulife Asset Management. "That, at the end of the day, will be of greater benefit to the markets than what goes on in Italy." The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 38.67 points, or 0.31 percent, at 12,699.11. Seven of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher. Financials, the index's weightiest sector, lost 0.3 percent. Royal Bank of Canada, the country's biggest bank, fell 1 percent to C$62.64. Several banks are expected to report quarterly results later this week. The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, slipped 0.9 percent, with the price of gold reversing course after a big one-day gain on Tuesday as fund investors cashed in some profits. Gold-mining stocks have been reacting sharply to Fed comments on its quantitative easing program, which has boosted gold's hedge appeal. Bernanke was expected to continue on Wednesday to downplay the idea that the central bank could prematurely end its current massive monthly bond-buying program. "What we will see is the confirmation that the U.S. is improving from an economic standpoint aside from jobs," Petursson said. "Jobs continue to be the focus of the Fed and as such the stimulus will remain in place." Energy shares added 0.4 percent, with U.S. crude oil making gains. In company news, Sears Canada Inc said its fourth-quarter profit fell 3 percent on lower sales of hardware and home electronic goods. The retailer's shares dropped nearly 4 percent to C$8.96.