TSX pads quarterly gain as interest rate concerns ease

  • TSX ends up 0.8% at 20,099.89
  • Posts gain of 3.7% in the first quarter
  • Canadian economy grows 0.5% in January
  • Shaw rises 3.3% as Canada approves company's buyout

March 31 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index rose on Friday for a sixth straight day, notching its highest closing level in three weeks, as worries eased about the outlook for U.S. interest rates and data showed stronger-than-expected growth in the domestic economy.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index (.GSPTSE) ended up 158.90 points, or 0.8%, at 20,099.89, its highest closing level since March 8.

"I think some of this pervasive concern about high interest rates, especially in the U.S., has receded a bit this week which is why we are seeing a nice rally off the lows that were hit earlier in the month," said Elvis Picardo, portfolio manager at Luft Financial, iA Private Wealth.

For the month, the TSX lost 0.6% as global banking turmoil led to a selloff in heavily-weighted financials and volatility in the price of oil.

It was up 3.7% in the first quarter of the year but trailing a gain of 7% for U.S. benchmark the S&P 500.

"We've seen the TSX lose a little bit of its sheen but I wouldn't be surprised to see it bounce back over the rest of the year as the global economy continues to open up and the fears centered around banking recede," Picardo said.

The Canadian economy grew 0.5% in January, ahead of analysts' forecasts of a 0.3% rise, and is seen expanding further in February.

Broad-based gains on the Toronto market were led by the technology sector. It was up 2.4%, helped by a 14.4% jump in the shares of Blackberry Ltd <BB.TO> after the company reported quarterly results.

Canada approved Rogers Communications Inc's (RCIb.TO) C$20 billion ($14.8 billion) buyout of Shaw Communications (SJRb.TO) after securing commitments from them to promote competition.

Shares of Shaw rose 3.3%, while Rogers was down 2.9%.

Reporting by Fergal Smith; Additional reporting by Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Deepa Babington and Marguerita Choy

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