By John Tilak
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada's main stock index touched its highest level in nearly three years on Friday as higher bullion prices drove up shares of gold producers and Enbridge Inc gained after the pipeline company's quarterly results showed revenue jumped.
Investors also cheered data showing the euro zone economy grew in the fourth quarter, beating market expectations, as strength in Germany and France helped the region's recovery.
Figures indicating a sharp drop in U.S. manufacturing output in January, caused by cold weather, failed to dampen the positive mood.
A rally in the gold-mining sector helped the benchmark Canadian index climb for a ninth straight session and recorded its strongest weekly gain in about 1-1/2 months.
The gold group, which is up about 28 percent this year, hit a five-month high on Friday.
"The resource stocks will come off the mat this year," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Wealth. "I think by and large they will have found a floor."
"It's certainly been a real story so far this year," he said of the gold sector's performance, adding that shares of gold miners were looking more attractive than the commodity for the first time in several years.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index <.GSPTSE> closed up 53.11 points, or 0.38 percent, at 14,054.76, just below the session high of 14,071.54 – its highest since early 2011.
After underperforming the S&P 500 <.SPX> index last year, the TSX is up 3.2 percent in 2014 compared with a 0.5 percent decline in its U.S. counterpart.
Gorman, who is a member of TD Wealth's asset allocation committee, sees a greater convergence of returns between the two indexes this year and recommends that investors "overweight" Canadian equities.
Seven of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.
Gold producers shot up 2.1 percent, supported by a 1.4 percent gain in the bullion price. In the group, Goldcorp Inc added 2.3 percent to C$30.32, and Barrick Gold Corp rose 1.3 percent to C$22.36.
Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, climbed 0.5 percent. Bank of Nova Scotia was up 0.2 percent at C$63.29, and Toronto-Dominion Bank advanced 0.6 percent to C$49.28.
Brookfield Asset Management Inc jumped 1.1 percent to C$43.25, after the company reported its best year ever in 2013 and more than doubled its funds from operations in the fourth quarter.
Enbridge reported a fourth-quarter loss, mainly due to losses on hedging contracts, but revenue jumped. The stock rose 1 percent at C$47.82.
(Additional reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Peter Galloway and G Crosse)