TSX posts biggest jump in 7 weeks; Canada, U.S. jobs data eyed

John Tilak
People attend a market open ceremony for Toronto Stock Exchange at the TSX Broadcast Centre in Toronto
People attend a market open ceremony for the Toronto Stock Exchange at the TSX Broadcast Centre in Toronto June 20, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

By John Tilak

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index recorded its biggest one-day jump in seven weeks on Thursday as higher oil prices helped lift energy shares and upbeat U.S. economic data sounded a positive note ahead of Friday's nonfarm payrolls report.

Strong earnings performances from BCE Inc and Canaccord Genuity provided further support and boosted shares of the two companies.

The market appeared to show signs of stabilizing after several days of choppy trading due to concerns about emerging markets and worries about global growth.

A report showed that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, following a wave of mixed economic data that had increased investor doubts about the U.S. economic recovery.

"We're seeing a little more optimism today than we've seen in the last couple of weeks," said Youssef Zohny, a portfolio manager at Stenner Investment Partners, a multifamily office within Richardson GMP.

"The markets are taking a wait-and-see approach ahead of the jobs number tomorrow," he added. "The headline will be less important than the reaction."

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index <.GSPTSE> closed up 153.71 points, or 1.13 percent, at 13,713.40. The benchmark Canadian index also moved back to positive territory for the year.

"The TSX is holding up pretty well and some of the commodity sectors are leading to some outperformance," Zohny said.

Nine of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher on Thursday.

The energy sector jumped 1.6 percent. Suncor Energy Inc shares added 1.7 percent to C$35.79, and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd rose 0.7 percent to C$37.91.

Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, were up 1.4 percent. Royal Bank of Canada advanced 1.3 percent to C$69.98.

In corporate news, Canadian National Railway Co reached a deal late on Wednesday to avert a strike by conductors and yard workers after the Conservative government said it would use back-to-work legislation to keep the railway operating. CN Rail shares gained 1.1 percent to end at C$60.06.

BCE shares rose 2.1 percent, to C$46.30, after the company posted a 17 percent rise in adjusted quarterly profit and raised its dividend.

Canaccord Genuity shares shot up 13.4 percent to C$7.79, a day after the investment dealer reported a 78 percent rise in quarterly profit.

Canada's employment data, due at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT) on Friday, could set the tone for markets, with hiring expected to pick up after the economy unexpectedly shed jobs in December.

U.S. employment data, due to be released at the same time on Friday, is forecast to show jobs growth also accelerated last month.

(Editing by G Crosse)