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Financial sector helps lift Toronto stocks, U.S. stocks also climb higher

TORONTO — Gains in the financial and health-care sectors helped Canada's main stock index close higher along with U.S. indices.

Bank stocks in the U.S. rose as both Goldman Sachs and Bank of America reported strong earnings, prompting rises in financial stocks in general, said Les Stelmach, portfolio manager at Franklin Bissett Investment Management.

"I think, in Canada, that's probably carried through, we're seeing all of the big-five banks in positive territory, not just today but year to date after sliding like a good chunk of the market did in December."

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 64.98 points at 15,111.26 on 249 million shares traded.

The financial index was up 1.05 per cent, boosted in part by a 1.36 per cent climb for Bank of Montreal and 1.05 per cent at CIBC.

Cannabis stocks helped send the health-care index up 1.97 per cent as Aurora Cannabis Inc. climbed 4.97 per cent.

The energy sector index, which rose strongly on Tuesday, slipped 0.65 per cent, despite the February crude contract closing up 20 cents at $52.31 per barrel.

Crude prices and energy stocks have seen gains in recent days as the outlook for oil improves, said Stelmach.

"There seems to be some confidence that the OPEC-plus cuts and Russia cuts are happening, and there's an expectation that inventories will continue to draw down."

Canadian crude producers have also been boosted by a sharp drop in the discount on the product as Alberta curtails production and investors worry that the U.S. could impose an embargo on Venezuelan heavy crude production. 

Energy stocks have also rallied in general after a heavy selloff in December that looks to be receding, said Stelmach.

"The Canadian market, particularly the energy sector, took such a beating in December that we're probably due for a relief."

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average ended up 141.57 points at 24,207.16. The S&P 500 index closed up 5.8 points at 2,616.10, while the Nasdaq composite was up 10.86 points at 7,034.69.

The Canadian dollar averaged 75.48 cents US, up 0.1 of a US cent from Tuesday.  

The February natural gas contract ended down 12 cents at US$3.38 per mmBTU. The February gold contract ended up US$5.40 at US$1,293.80 an ounce and the March copper contract was up four cents at US$2.67 a pound.


Companies in this story: (TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X)

The Canadian Press

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