* TSX up 30.02 pts, or 0.2 pct, at 12,731.28
* Highest close since Aug. 31, 2011
* Energy, material issues lift index
* U.S. jobless claims hold near 4-yr lows
* Euro zone contraction forecast for 2012
By Jon Cook
TORONTO, Feb 23 Canadian stocks ended at
their highest level in nearly six months on Thursday
as oil and gas shares jumped on surging oil prices and as
encouraging U.S. jobs data offset a pessimistic outlook for the
euro zone economy.
Most of the index's 10 main sectors were higher, led by a 1
percent jump in oil and gas shares after Brent oil priced in
euros hit a record high on Thursday on heightened tension
between Iran and the West.
Suncor Energy was the biggest heavyweight gainer,
rising 2.2 percent to C$36.39. Pacific Rubiales surged
7.8 percent to C$29.44 on a Royal Bank of Canada rating upgrade
after the energy producer said on Thursday its Colombian oil
reserves grew by 52 percent in 2011.
"Canada is very favorable here because you are in the best
portion of seasonality for the energy sector," said Sid
Mokhtari, a market technician at CIBC World Markets.
The oil and gas sector has risen more than 7 percent this
year and Mokhtari said March and April are traditionally the
best months of the year for gains.
"It's reasonable to assume that the U.S. dollar would drift
lower and help the commodities like oil and gold, and that
should be a positive for Canada," he added.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
finished up 30.02 points, or 0.2 percent, at
12,731.28, its highest close since Aug. 31, 2011.
Gains were supported by U.S. data that showed jobless claims
were unchanged last week, holding at the lowest level since the
early days of the 2007-09 recession.
Signs that the battered U.S. labor and housing markets are
healing has helped the TSX jump more than 5 percent so far this
year. Figures on Wednesday showed U.S. home resales surged to a
1-1/2 year high in January.
"We have clarity in that the U.S. is still showing positive
momentum both in terms of economic growth and job growth and
those were things that were missing six months ago," said Philip
Petursson, managing director of the portfolio advisory group at
Manulife Asset Management.
Gold miners pushed the heavily weighted materials group up
0.2 percent as bullion traded near $1,800 an ounce. Gains
were led by Osisko Mining Corp and Yamana Gold
after they both reported strong earnings and Yamana increased
Osisko rose 5.1 percent to C$12.55, and Yamana jumped 3.1
percent to C$17.90.
Bullion has benefited from expectations for further credit
easing by China and after the U.S. Federal Reserve last month
said it would keep interest rates near zero at least until late
"If you have inflationary pressures, gold is going to move
on it," Petursson said.
In Europe, upbeat economic data from Germany was
overshadowed by the European Commission's forecast on Thursday
that euro area GDP would shrink 0.3 percent this year. Its
previous forecast was for 0.5 percent growth.
Canadian financial shares were flat. Bank of Nova Scotia
slid 0.4 percent to C$53.51, while Royal Bank of Canada
edged up 0.2 percent to C$54.42.