CANADA STOCKS-TSX up almost 1 pct as investors shrug off Ukraine

Tue Mar 18, 2014 5:02pm EDT

* TSX rises 137.09 points, or 0.96 percent, to 14,368.98
    * All 10 main index sectors advance
    * CN Rail, CP Rail are most influential gainers


    By Alastair Sharp
    TORONTO, March 18 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index
gained almost 1 percent on Tuesday as investors focused on signs
that the crisis in Ukraine will not escalate and as central
banker comments at home on slow growth were interpreted as
meaning interest rates will remain low.
    The gains were broad, with each of the 10 main sectors on
the index moving higher, and were led by the biggest and most
liquid stocks, including Canadian Natural Resources Ltd 
and Canadian National Railway Co.
    The boost came as President Vladimir Putin signed a treaty
to make Crimea part of Russia but said he did not plan to seize
any other regions of Ukraine. 
    "Whether or not Crimea was just the first step in Russia
moving further into Ukraine was the biggest worry," said Allan
Small, a senior investment adviser at HollisWealth. 
    But even an escalation of those geopolitical tensions
shouldn't clip Canada's all-time-high stock market, according to
Barry Schwartz, portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services. 
    "Is it important to me or you or the average investor who
owns good quality North American stocks?" Schwartz said of the
situation in Eastern Europe. "No, there is no impact.
    "What really matters is the accommodation of the central
banks in North America to continue to keep interest rates very
low," he said.
    That monetary stance got a boost when Bank of Canada
Governor Stephen Poloz warned about the risk of a prolonged
period of sluggish growth and how that could mean that interest
rates will stay low for longer. 
    The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
 ended up 137.08 points, or 0.96 percent, at 14,368.97,
marking the biggest one-day gain since early February.
    Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, added
0.5 percent. Manulife Financial Corp climbed 0.8
percent to C$20.99, and Bank of Nova Scotia rose 0.6
percent to C$64.83.
    Energy shares, another heavy hitter on the index, gained 1.4
percent, with telecoms and consumer companies notching similar
gains. Industrial shares jumped 1.2 percent, helped by gains in
the country's two biggest rail operators. 
    Canadian National Railway Co advanced 1.2 percent
to C$63.39, and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd gained 1.5
percent to C$173.68. 
    Valeant Pharmaceutical International Inc jumped 3.1
percent to C$160.63 and Potash Corp gained 2.2 percent
to C$38.66.
    Shares of gold producers gave back 0.4 percent, reflecting a
fall in the price of bullion. Barrick Gold Corp slipped
0.3 percent to C$22.55.
    "Gold is down because the fear factor from Russia dropped a
notch," Small said. 
    Investors are also awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve's
policy decision on Wednesday, at the close of the Fed's two-day
meeting.
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