TSX ends higher for fourth straight day as gold, oil prices climb

TORONTO -- The Toronto stock market ended higher for a fourth consecutive day Thursday, as investors sought safety in gold and remained hopeful that an agreement could be reached between major oil-producing countries to freeze crude output.

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The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 64.20 points or 0.5 per cent at 12,931.36.

Gold, materials and real estate were the leading advancers on the TSX, offsetting declines by the metals and mining and energy sectors.

The Canadian dollar fell 0.24 of a U.S. cent to 72.73 cents US.

On the commodity markets, April gold was up $14.90 at US$1,226.30 an ounce. The March crude contract was up 11 cents at US$30.77 per barrel.

Oil prices fluctuated throughout the day after the latest data showed that fuel stockpiles grew last week in the U.S.

Crude prices have climbed recently due to optimism over a possible deal to limit production by some OPEC nations. So far, six countries, including Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, have supported the plan to keep output at January's levels as part of an effort to put a floor in bottoming crude prices.

Iran says it supports the deal but has not agreed to it. The agreement needs all 13 members of OPEC to participate or else it will not go forward.

"Oil production levels in the U.S. have remained surprisingly robust despite very low market prices," said Todd Mattina, chief economist and strategist at Mackenzie Investments.

"That combined with very high inventory levels is going to keep continued downward pressure on oil prices."

Mattina said he continues to have a bearish view on the markets and expects volatility to continue as there's still uncertainty over when the next rate hike will come from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

In other resource markets, the March natural gas contract was down nine cents at US$1.85 per mmbtu and March copper was unchanged at US$2.07 a pound.

Wall Street was negative with the Dow Jones industrial average down 40.40 points to 16,413.43. The broader S&P 500 composite index declined 8.99 points to 1,917.83, while the Nasdaq composite index lost 46.52 points to 4,487.54.

In economic news, the OECD released a report Thursday saying it has cut its growth forecasts for Canada, the U.S. and other economies in the world for the next two years.

It predicts the Canadian economy will grow by 1.4 per cent in 2016, a drop from its previous projection of 2.0 per cent growth for this year.

Canada's economic growth is expected to pick up to 2.2 per cent in 2017, down from the 2.3 per cent that had been forecast earlier.



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