By John Tilak
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index gained on Monday after the U.S. Federal Reserve's assurance of continued support for the economy lifted sentiment and helped drive up shares of financial and energy companies.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen said measures by the central bank to boost the U.S. economy will be necessary for some time to come.
Investors were also encouraged by data showing the Canadian economy rebounded more strongly than expected in January from a decline in December.
The Toronto stock market's benchmark index recorded its ninth straight monthly gain. It advanced 5.2 percent this quarter, making it one of the strongest performers among major global indexes.
"It speaks to the fact that the TSX has come back in favor this quarter," said Elvis Picardo, a strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver. "We continue to argue that there is much better value in the Canadian side than there is in the United States."
"But it's high time that equity markets stand on their own two feet without relying on this constant promise of stimulus from the Fed," Picardo added. "The tendency of the markets to react to every piece of news that comes out of the Fed is a little unhealthy."
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index <.GSPTSE> closed up 74.59 points, or 0.52 percent, at 14,335.31.
Eight of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.
Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, climbed 0.7 percent. Royal Bank of Canada added 0.6 percent to C$72.89, and Bank of Nova Scotia advanced 0.7 percent to C$64.03.
Shares of energy producers shrugged off declines in the price of oil. Suncor Energy Inc was up 1.1 percent at C$38.61.
In corporate news, Encana Corp said it would sell some natural gas assets in Wyoming's Jonah field to a TPG Capital affiliate for about $1.8 billion. Encana shares slipped 0.4 percent to C$23.61.
Martinrea International Inc jumped 13.7 percent to C$9.97 after the auto parts maker said that Nick Orlando will step down as its president and chief executive officer.
Telus Corp shed 1.8 percent after the telecommunications company said Chief Executive Officer Darren Entwistle is set to become executive chairman and Joe Natale, who is currently its chief commercial officer, will replace him.
(Editing by Peter Galloway)