By John Tilak
TORONTO, (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index advanced to its highest in almost six years on Friday as heightened tensions in Iraq raised concerns about oil supply, sending prices of the commodity and shares in the sector higher.
Investors followed news that Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric urged his followers to take up arms to defend themselves against a relentless advance by Sunni militants, in a sharp escalation of a conflict which is threatening civil war and the potential break-up of the country.
The Toronto stock market's benchmark index, which has advanced in 10 of the past 11 sessions, is up more than 10 percent this year. The energy sector has been a driving force behind those gains.
“Energy is definitely the best place to be at the moment in the Canadian market," said Marcus Xu, portfolio manager at MY Capital Management Corp, who expects the TSX to outperform the U.S. market this year.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index <.GSPTSE> closed up 91.98 points, or 0.62 percent, at 15,001.61. The index rose as high as 15,017.19, its highest since June 19, 2008.
Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.
Shares of energy producers gained 2 percent. Suncor Energy Inc jumped 2 percent to C$46.35, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd climbed 2 percent to C$47.99.
“This is going to be another outstanding quarter for companies in the oil patch,” said David Cockfield, managing director and portfolio manager at Northland Wealth Management, who expects the higher oil prices to lift the profits of energy producers.
Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, added 0.2 percent. Royal Bank of Canada was up 0.7 percent at C$75.23, and Bank of Nova Scotia rose 0.2 percent to C$70.52.
The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, gained 0.6 percent, with Goldcorp Inc rising 0.5 percent to C$27.33.
In corporate news, people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Talisman Energy Inc was reviewing its Asian oil and gas portfolio, valued at about $4 billion, which could lead to a partial or full sale. The stock advanced 2.3 percent to C$11.52.
(Editing by Peter Galloway and James Dalgleish)