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CANADA STOCKS-Toronto blue chips hit over 5-month high on tech, materials boost

(Adds comments; updates prices, details)


Manulife to outsource Canadian operations


House prices expected to tumble 17.5% - poll

By Johann M Cherian

Nov 24 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index hit over five-month highs on Thursday, supported by technology, materials and financial stocks as well as optimism that the U.S. Federal Reserve would flatten its monetary tightening trajectory.

At 10:10 a.m. ET (1510 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 69.84 points, or 0.34%, at 20,352.1.

The commodity-linked materials sector rose 0.4%. Copper prices firmed on demand prospects after three Chinese banks agreed to provide support to the country's embattled property sector.

Even as U.S. markets are shut for the Thanksgiving holiday, investors took comfort from minutes of the Fed's Nov policy meeting that noted it was more important to focus on how high rates will need to rise to tame inflation than the size of coming rate increases.

Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem also noted that domestic inflation remained strong, and higher interest rates were the medicine to soothe the economy.

Analysts are pricing in a 88% chance of a 25 basis point hike at the BoC's next meeting on Dec. 7. Such a move would take the policy rate to 4%, a level last seen in January 2008.

"The important part of these rate hikes is that once they stop, they are likely to keep rates in the higher range for longer than what most people think," said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at SIA Wealth Management.

Traders are now bracing for earnings from top Canadian banks next week.

"I think results will be mixed, similar to what we saw with American banks," Cieszynski added.

"Traditional banking should do OK given climbing interest rates, however it could have been a rough quarter for financials like wealth management and capital markets."

The financial sector rose 0.4%, while rate-sensitive technology stocks added 1%.

Among stocks, Manulife Financial Corp rose 0.7% after the insurer said it will outsource its property operations in Canada to focus on its entrepreneurial investment management unit.

Meanwhile, after a more than 50% rise, house prices are expected to crumble 17.5%, under the weight of rapid-fire rate hikes from Canada's central bank, according to a Reuters poll. (Reporting by Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru Editing by Tomasz Janowski)