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TSX Closes Higher On Bernanke Comments -- Canadian Commentary

Canadian stocks settled higher Monday, led by resource stocks after comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated continued monetary policy support from the Fed.

Investor sentiments were also lifted on some positive economic data from the eurozone, with a report indicating business confidence had improved in Germany for the month of March.

Toronto's main index, the S&P/TSX, closed Monday at 12,574.79, up 109.13 points or 0.88 percent. The S&P/TSX Composite Index touched an intraday high of 12,583.12 and a low of 12,486.77.

The TSX Venture Index closed at 1,581.39, up 25.87 points or 1.67 percent. The index opened at 1,573.05 compared to its previous close of 1,555.52.

All major components of the S&P/TSX Index were in positive territory, led by the Materials Energy, Information Technology, and Global Gold Indices.

Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for May delivery, added $0.16 or 0.2 percent to close at $107.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Monday.

The Energy Index gained 0.47 percent, led by Suncor Energy Inc. up 0.98 percent and Ithaca Energy Inc. (IAE) up 2.36 percent. Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNQ.TO) shed 1.10 percent, while Encana Corp. (ECA.TO) dropped 0.59 percent.

Transportation systems maker Bombardier (BBD.B.TO) gained 2.12 percent, while Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIM.TO) also added 1.68 percent.

Gold for April delivery, the most actively traded contract, moved up $23.20 or 1.4 percent to close at $1,685.60 an ounce Monday on the NYMEX.

The Global Gold Index gained as much as 1.10 percent, led by Lake Shore Gold Corp. (LSG.TO) up 3.2 percent, Eldorado Gold Corp. (ELD.TO) up 0.89 percent, Kinross Gold Corp. (K.TO) up 0.50 percent. Yamana Gold Inc. (YRI.TO) gained 1.51 percent, while Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX.TO) added 0.62 percent.

The Materials Index rose 1.18 percent with Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT.TO) gained 2.13 percent and Romarco Minerals Inc. (R.TO) up 5.10 percent.

The Metals & Mining Index gained 0.21 percent, with Teck Resources (TCK.B.TO) adding 2.13 percent, while First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) shed 1.03 percent.

The Financial Index gained 0.84 percent with Royal Bank (RY.TO) up 1.16 percent, Manulife Financial Corp. (MFC.TO) up 2.20percent and Sun Life Financial Inc. (SLF.TO) up 2.12 percent. Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) gained 1.23 percent.

Engineering and construction company SNC - Lavalin Group (SNC.TO) jumped 5.19 percent, after reporting a significant drop in its fourth quarter 2011 net income at C$76.0 million or C$0.50 per share compared to C$158.7 million or C$1.04 per share last year. Adjusted basis net income totaled C$132.6 million or C$0.87 per share. SNC - Lavalin now expects full-year 2012 profit in line with last year.

Separately, SNC - Lavalin said Pierre Duhaime has stepped down from his position as chief executive and as a director and would retire from the company, while Ian Bourne would assume the function of Vice-Chairman and Interim Chief Executive.

Integrated forest products company Tembec Inc. (TMB.TO) gained a marginal 0.30 percent after announcing the closure of sale of its British Columbia Southern Interior wood products assets to Canfor Corporation for approximately $65 million.

Meanwhile, engineering and consulting services provider Genivar Inc. (GNV.TO) lost almost 3 percent despite reporting improved 2011 full year adjusted net earnings of $50.05 million or $1.91 per share compared to $47.10 million or $1.73 per share a year ago.

In economic news, pending home sales in the U.S. showed an unexpected decline in February, as per a report by the National Association of Realtors on Monday. Nevertheless, pending sales remain notably above the pattern in the first half of last year.

The pending home sales index fell by 0.5 percent to a reading of 96.5 in February after rising 2.0 percent to 97.0 in January. Economists expected the index to increase by 1.0 percent. A pending sale indicates a contract was signed but not yet closed. Normally, it takes four to six weeks to close a contracted sale.

From the eurozone, German business confidence improved to 109.8 in March from 109.7 a month ago, the Munich-based Ifo institute reportedly said. The index stayed above the expected reading of 109.5.

Meanwhile, the current conditions index remained at 117.4. Economists were expecting the index to fall to 117. The expectations index rose to 102.7 from 102.4 in February. The reading matched economists' expectations.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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