TSX closes second strong week in a row

TORONTO -- North American stock markets continued their late-month rally Friday, with Canada's main index now having clawed back most of the big losses it suffered at the start of the year.

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"The early part of this year got off to a very negatively tilted sentiment," said Colum McKinley, vice-president and portfolio manager of Canadian Equities at CIBC Asset Management.

"And, I think, we're seeing some relief over the last -- not just today -- but over the last week or so from that negative slant."

The S&P/TSX composite index closed 230.20 points higher at 12,822.13 on Friday, leaving it down 1.4 per cent or 187.82 points since the start of the year, as oil prices continue to improve.

The March contract for North American benchmark crude oil closed up 40 cents at US$33.62 a barrel.

It has now risen 18.5 per cent since finishing as low at US$28.36 last week. McKinley said there will be continued volatility in oil prices, but they will improve in the long-run as production growth slows.

The commodity-sensitive Canadian dollar also continued to trend higher on the strength in oil, up 0.22 of a U.S. cent at 71.40 cents US after having rebounded from below 69 cents US early last week.

In New York, markets were sharply higher. Good earnings reports from American companies like Microsoft, after others disappointed, helped propel the markets, said McKinley, as did rising oil prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average soared 396.66 points to 16,466.30. The S&P 500 rose 46.88 points to 1,940.24 and the Nasdaq added 107.27 points to 4,613.95.

But January was a tough month for U.S. markets, as well, despite recent gains.

The beginning of the year was the worst in the history of the Dow and the S&P 500 as both indexes fell into a correction or a drop of at least 10 per cent from a recent peak. Both are down around six per cent this month, while the Nasdaq is off about eight per cent.

Some of today's steep gains came after the Bank of Japan announced it would impose a 0.1 per cent fee on some new commercial bank deposits with the central bank, effectively a negative interest rate.

The bank said it hopes the move will encourage commercial banks to lend more, thereby stimulating investment and growth in the world's third-largest economy.

"People are interpreting that as potentially contributing to reinvigorating global growth," said McKinley.

Japan's Nikkei 225, Hong Kong's Hang Seng and the Shanghai composite all rose on the news, as did European indexes.

Elsewhere in commodities, March natural gas shot up 11.6 cents to US$2.298 per mmBtu, while April gold added 30 cents to US$1,116.40 an ounce and March copper rose 1.55 cents to US$2.067 a pound.

With files from The Associated Press



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