* TSX up 2.38 points at 12,625.74
* Trading around highest level since Sept. 9, 2011
* Materials shares rise, financials fall
* U.S. housing data boosts sentiment
* Weak euro zone, China data weighs
By Jon Cook
TORONTO, Feb 22 Toronto's main stock index
was little changed at midday on Wednesday after hitting a
five-month high the previous session as weak data from the euro
zone and China countered strong U.S. housing figures.
U.S. home resales surged in January to a 1-1/2 year high and
the supply of properties on the market was the lowest in almost
seven years, pointing to a nascent housing recovery in Canada's
top trading partner.
The data helped the index's heavyweight materials sector
edge up 0.2 percent. Potash Corp, the world's top
fertilizer producer, led the group, rising 0.7 percent to
C$47.21 on hopes for increased U.S. demand.
"The prospects of the U.S. are beginning to get a little
brighter," said Rick Hutcheon, president and chief operating
officer at RKH Investments. "There are signs that there may be
some improvement in the nearer term and that's what the market
has been waiting for."
At 12:04 (1704 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX
composite index was up 2.38 points at 12,625.74, the
TSX's highest level since Sept. 9, 2011.
Oil and gas issues were up slightly as Brent crude oil
reached a nine-month high on Wednesday, supported by
Iran-related supply worries. Suncor Energy was the
biggest heavyweight gainer, rising 1 percent to C$35.10.
The gradually brightening U.S. economy has helped the TSX
rally more than 5 percent this year despite continued unease
about conditions in Europe.
"It's a North American phenomenon," Hutcheon said. "We've
become a little more inward looking and a lot of that has been
forced on us by the grief that's going on in Europe."
Optimism about Tuesday's approval by European officials of
another multibillion-dollar bailout for Greece waned on
Wednesday as data showed the euro zone may be sliding back
Preliminary data also showed China's new export orders
shrank in February in a worrying sign that the euro area debt
crisis is afflicting the world's top consumer.
Financial shares fell 0.4 percent. Toronto-Dominion Bank
mirrored the sector's drop, sliding 0.4 percent to C$78.87.
In earnings news, Rogers Communications shares
rose 0.9 percent to C$38.12 after it reported a stronger than
expected quarterly profit and raised its dividend.