CANADA STOCKS-TSX rises as jobs help offset mining retreat

Reuters

By Solarina Ho TORONTO, March 7 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index rose on Friday following better-than-expected U.S. jobs data, with gains in energy stocks offsetting a decline in mining.

U.S. jobs growth picked up sharply in February despite an unusually cold winter, with 175,000 new jobs created, compared with a loss of 7,000 in Canada. Sentiment in Canada is often influenced by news out of the United States, the country's largest trading partner.

"The U.S. jobs number was the big positive driver for the markets today. I think there was enough there to even offset the job losses in Canada. So yeah, it's been a good day that way," said Brian Pow, vice president, research and equity analyst at Acumen Capital Partners in Calgary.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed 27.16 points, or 0.2 percent higher, to end the session at 14,299.08. Nine of the 10 main groups were in positive territory.

The index, which rose in four of the last five sessions, gained close to 0.7 percent on the week. It has gained 6 percent since it last troughed at the beginning of February.

Energy stocks were helped by stronger crude prices, which rose to $108 a barrel on supply concerns from the crisis in Ukraine and the U.S. jobs number.

Canadian Natural Resources was up 1.9 percent at C$41.59, while Suncor Energy Inc rose 1.1 percent to C$36.91. The overall group climbed nearly 1 percent.

The heavily weighted financial group was up a modest 0.1 percent.

"Our index has the barbell between financials and resources that makes our markets somewhat less volatile, in terms of what's going on," said Paul Hand, managing director at RBC Capital Markets.

The materials group, comprised of mining stocks, capped some of the positive gains, with a 1.7 percent retreat, as gold and copper prices fell.

Goldcorp Inc was off 1.7 percent at C$29.97, while Barrick Gold Corp was down 1.1 percent at C$22.08.

Gold prices fell 1 percent as U.S. jobs data helped soothe fears of an abrupt slowdown in the world's biggest economy.

Base-metals miner First Quantum Minerals Ltd led the decliners with a 5.4 percent drop to C$20.10 as copper hit a seven-month low on China growth worries. Teck Resources Ltd also slumped 3.4 percent to C$24.40.

In company news, Constellation Software Inc was also one of the biggest drivers on the positive side, jumping 12.2 percent to C$265.48. The company reported better-than-expected results after markets on Thursday and at least two analysts raise its price target on the company.

The overall technology group gained 1.7 percent.

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