Stock markets get off to strong start, oil prices up, loonie advances

TORONTO -- North American stock markets got off to a positive start today, with Canada's main index up about one per cent shortly after trading began in Toronto.

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The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX index gained 129.23 points to 12,507.00 -- adding to gains on Tuesday and Wednesday that nearly eliminated a 246-point decline on Monday.

In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial average was up 132.92 points at 16,077.38, the broader S&P 500 index advanced 19.9 points to 1,902.91 and the Nasdaq 100 added 66.39 points to 4,195.25.

On the commodity markets, the March contract for a benchmark crude briefly touched $34.82 a barrel but later declined to about $33.90.

Benchmark crude contracts haven't closed above US$35 a barrel since Jan. 5, at US$35.97.

The February gold contract fell $2.20 to US$1,113.60 an ounce.

Canada's dollar was at 71.44 cents US as North American stock markets opened at 9:30 a.m. ET, up 0.53 of a cent from Wednesday's close.

Its value has been affected by a number of factors, including low oil prices, the U.S. dollar's strength and weak global economic growth.



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