By John Tilak
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada’s main stock index climbed on Friday to its highest in 2-1/2 years as rising bullion prices helped push up gold-mining shares such as Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO: Quote) and Goldcorp Inc (G.TO: Quote), offsetting a weak performance by the industrial sector.
Trading volumes were also strong, with about 397 million shares changing hands, compared with an average daily volume of about 316 million shares in December, according to Thomson Reuters data and figures from market operator TMX Group.
Investors were also tracking data that showed a drop in U.S. housing starts in December that might have been partly the result of frigid weather during the month.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s benchmark index, which gained 9.6 percent last year, has advanced in eight of the last nine sessions. It added about 1 percent this week.
Some investors are hoping that the upcoming Canadian earnings season will be another catalyst for the market.
“The sentiment in the market is quite positive,” said Ben Jang, a portfolio manager who helps manage about C$2.5 billion in assets at Nicola Wealth Management.
“With momentum pushing the TSX Composite up, (investors) are relying on earnings to give something concrete to help move the markets further,” he added.
The benchmark S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 56.63 points, or 0.41 percent, at 13,888.21, after touching 13,910.38, its highest level since mid-2011.
Jang expects the Canadian market to gain 8 to 9 percent this year but slightly lag U.S. stock market growth. “The overall commodity space will be quite volatile,” he said.
Six of the TSX index’s 10 main sectors were higher on Friday.
Shares of gold producers jumped 3.9 percent, reflecting a 1 percent gain in the bullion price. Barrick rose 3.5 percent to C$20.61, and Goldcorp Inc (G.TO: Quote) firmed 4.3 percent to C$25.43.
Financials, the index’s most heavily weighted group, advanced 0.3 percent. Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO: Quote) was trading up 0.5 percent, at C$72.65.
But the industrial sector gave back 0.3 percent. Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO: Quote) slipped 1.4 percent to C$4.11, and Canadian National Railway Co (CNR.TO: Quote) lost 0.1 percent to C$58.58.
(Editing by Peter Galloway and Meredith Mazzilli)