CANADA STOCKS-TSX nears three-year high after Canadian Natural deal
* TSX rises 73.94 points, or 0.53 percent, to 14,151.41 * Six of 10 main index sectors advance * Canadian Natural jumps 4.6 percent after acquisition move * Sherritt drops after posting loss, cutting dividend By John Tilak TORONTO, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index hit its highest in almost 3 years on Wednesday as Canadian Natural Resources Ltd jumped after the company said it would acquire some natural gas assets, offsetting weak economic data from the United States. Devon Energy Corp said it would sell some liquids-rich natural gas assets to Canadian Natural, Canada's No. 1 independent oil producer, for about $2.8 billion, a move that helped lift shares across the energy sector. Data showing that U.S. housing starts recorded their biggest drop in almost three years in January failed to dent the positive mood. The Toronto market recorded its 11th straight daily gain, helped by a rebound in investor sentiment and a pickup in the natural resource sectors. "The sentiment for equities is pretty good," said Matt Skipp, president of SW8 Asset Management. "But you're going to see more volatility this year as markets in the developed world have clearly become fully priced." "The Canadian Natural deal has given people confidence in the oil patch," he added. "With one of the smartest operators making a significant acquisition, it gives a lot of credibility to pricing going forward." The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 73.94 points, or 0.53 percent, at 14,151.41. Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher. Shares of energy companies climbed 0.9 percent. Canadian Natural's 4.6 percent jump, to C$40.98, was the highlight in the group. Suncor Energy Inc added 0.6 percent to C$36.83. The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, gained 0.9 percent. Potash Corp rose 1.3 percent to C$37.26, and Barrick Gold Corp climbed 1.9 percent to C$22.93. Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, advanced 0.6 percent, with Royal Bank of Canada adding 0.6 percent to C$71.87. In other company news, Sherritt International Corp posted a quarterly loss and slashed its quarterly dividend. The stock shed 9 percent to C$3.12.