Energy gains, U.S. data take TSX higher

By John Tilak

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index advanced on Thursday as a jump in the price of oil pushed up shares of energy companies and positive U.S. economic data drove gains across most of the other major sectors.

The advances were capped by a drop in bullion prices, which took gold-mining stocks to their lowest in more than four months after dropping sharply the previous session.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index <.GSPTSE> closed up 45.32 points, or 0.34 percent, at 13,475.33.

Upbeat data from the United States spurred investors to overlook worries about the fate of the U.S. Federal Reserve's stimulus program.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits dropped more than expected last week, indicating strengthening labor market conditions in the world's largest economy.

"Sentiment is quite bullish," said Elvis Picardo, strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver. "There's still a ton of money on the sidelines. Investors are using dips to get in on the action."

"Investors are not afraid to take on risk," he added. "This appetite to take on risk is positive for the TSX."

The benchmark Canadian index is up about 8 percent so far this year. Nine of the 10 main sectors on the index ended higher on Thursday.

With oil prices rising, shares of energy companies climbed 0.9 percent. Canadian Natural Resources Ltd advanced 1.7 percent to C$35.26, and Talisman Energy Inc added 1.3 percent to C$12.78.

Financials, the index's heavily weighted sector, edged higher, with Toronto-Dominion Bank gaining 0.3 percent to C$98.18.

But gold producers gave back 0.8 percent. Barrick Gold Corp dropped 0.8 percent to C$17.79 and Kinross Gold Corp shed 1.2 percent to C$4.90.

In corporate news, Gildan Activewear Inc reported a 9 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit, but shares of the apparel maker were down 3.3 percent at C$49.60.

($1=$1.05 Canadian)

(Editing by G Crosse)

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