Loonie closes above 75 cents U.S., TSX gains 89 points

TORONTO -- North American markets closed higher on the final trading day of the week as oil rose and new jobs data out of the U.S.

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was stronger than anticipated.

The S&P/TSX composite index rose 88.85 points to 13,212.50, while the loonie gained 0.40 of a cent to 75.05 cents US.

It was the first time since late November that the loonie closed above 75 cents US.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average climbed 62.87 points to 17,006.77, while the broader S&P 500 composite index advanced 6.59 points to 1,999.99. The Nasdaq composite rose 9.60 points to 4,717.02.

South of the border, the economy added 242,000 jobs last month, particularly in the construction, retail and health care sectors, according to the latest data from the U.S. Labor Department, which also revised its job estimates for December and January upwards.

Bruce Cooper, chief investment officer of TD Asset Management, said the jobs data was a positive for both the U.S. and the Canadian stock markets on Friday.

"We worry about an environment of relatively low growth," Cooper said.

"So when you get indications that in the biggest economy in the world, which is the United States, things are continuing to move along -- they're not roaring ahead, but they're moving ahead in a reasonable fashion -- that allows the market to breathe a sigh of relief."

Toronto's resource-centric market benefited from a boost in commodity prices Friday. The metals and mining sector of the TSX grew 5.17 per cent, while base metals stocks were up 4.22 per cent. Meanwhile, energy stocks gained 2.98 per cent.

Crude oil, which has been flirting with US$35 a barrel for the last few days, finally closed above that mark -- something it hasn't done since late January. The April contract for benchmark U.S. crude oil rose $1.35 to US$35.92 a barrel.

The rebound in the price of oil helped the TSX slip into positive territory for the year so far this past week.

"Of the major markets, the TSX is the best performing market year-to-date," Cooper said. "Canada clearly has the most resource exposure of any of the major markets, and so it's a beneficiary as the commodity recovers."

Oil has recovered somewhat as rock-bottom prices forced a number of U.S. producers to scale back their drilling, Cooper said.

"The number of drills operating in the United States is down something like 70 per cent from the peak," Cooper said.

In other commodity news, April natural gas gained 2.7 cents to $1.67 per mmBtu, the April gold contract climbed $12.50 to US$1,270.70 per troy ounce and May copper was up seven cents at US$2.28 a pound.



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