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Canadian Market Advances As Bank Stocks Rise

The Canadian stock market is modestly higher Friday morning, riding on gains in financial, healthcare and industrials sectors, amid renewed optimism about U.S.-China trade talks.

Reports that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He had telephonic conversations with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer raised optimism about trade negotiations between the worlds two largest economies.

A report from RBC Economics that says the Canadian economy is headed for a slower growth in 2019 appears to be limiting market's upside. RCB Economics has downgraded its 2019 Canadian forecast to 1.5% from 1.7%, citing sluggish energy sector and softer consumer spending due to higher interest rates.

The benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index is up 76.25 points, or 0.47%, at 16,163.80.

On Thursday, the index ended down 62.42 points, or 0.39%, at 16,087.55.

Among bank stocks, Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) and National Bank of Canada (NA.TO) are up more than 1%, while Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) and Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) are gaining 0.5 to 0.8%.

Manulife Financial (MFC.TO) and Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) are up 1% and 1.2%, respectively. Fairfax Financial Holdings (FFH.TO) is down nearly 1%.

Aurora Cannabis Inc. (ACB.TO) is rising more than 4.5% and Green Organic Dutchman Holdings (TGOD.TO) is gaining nearly 2%.

Energy stocks Encana Corporation (ECA.TO), Suncor Energy (SU.TO) and Pambina Pipeline Corporation (PPL.TO) are notably higher.

In the materials space, First Quantum Minerals (FM.TO) is up more than 2%, Nutrien (NTR.TO) is gaining 0.8% and Barrick Gold Corporation (ABX.TO) is down marginally.

On the economic front, Statistics Canada said manufacturing sales increased 1.0% to $57.1 billion in January, following three consecutive monthly decreases.

According to a report from the Canadian Real Estate Association, national home sales plummeted 9.1% month-over-month in February. Actual activity was down 4.4% year-over-year.

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