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Canadian Shares Modestly Higher In Cautious Trade

The Canadian stock market is up in positive territory Thursday morning, lifted by gains in healthcare, consumer discretionary and select financial and industrials shares.

Data showing a jump in Canadian retail sales in the month of February, and data showing higher retail sales and lower jobless claims in the U.S. are aiding sentiment.

However, buying interest is somewhat subdued due to the long weekend ahead.

The benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index is up 25.47 points, or 0.16%, at 16,569.71, after rising to a record high of 16,597.37 in early trades.

The Capped Healthcare Index is up 2.5%. Canopy Growth Corporation (WEED.TO) is soaring nearly 9%. Constellation Brands, Inc. today announced that it plans to enter into an agreement with Canopy to modify certain warrants and other rights.

Canopy announced earlier this morning that it has entered into an agreement with Acreage to acquire its shares upon U.S. Federal cannabis legalization.

Cronos Group (CRON.TO) is rising 2.6%, Hexo Corp. (HEXO.TO) is gaining 2.5%, Aurora Cannabis (ACB.TO) is rising 1.3% and Green Organic Dutchman Holdings (TGOD.TO) is advancing 0.75%. Aphria Inc. (APHA.TO) and CannTrust Holdings (TRST.TO) are down 2.8% and 1.4%, respectively.

In the financial space, Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO), Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO), Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS.TO) and National Bank of Canada (NA.TO) are up 0.3 to 0.75%. Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) is up marginally, while Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) slightly weak.

Fairfax Financial Holdings (FFH.TO) is declining 1.1% and Manulife Financial Corporation (MFC.TO) is down 0.4%, while Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO) is up marginally.

Restaurant Brands International Inc. (QSR.TO), Dollarama Inc. (DOL.TO), Magna International (MG.TO), Great Canadian Gaming Corporation (GC.TO) and Linamar Corporation (LNR.TO) are up 1 to 1.3%.

Among energy stocks, Crescent Point Energy (CPG.TO) and Baytex Energy (BTE.TO) are down 1.6% and 2.5%, respectively. Surge Energy (SGY.TO) is declining nearly 5%, while Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) and Enbridge (ENB.TO) are down marginally.

In the materials space, B2Gold Corp. (BTO.TO) and Barrick Gold Corporation (ABX.TO) are up in positive territory, while Goldcorp (G.TO), Yamana Gold (YRI.TO) and Lundin Mining Corporation (LUN.TO) are down 1.7 to 2.6%.

Data released by Statistics Canada showed retail sales rose 0.8% in February to $50.6 billion, marking the first increase since October.

According to Thomson Reuters Eikon, economists had forecast a 0.4% rise in retail sales in February.

Retail sales at general merchandise stores increased by 3.8%, while sales at new car dealers helped motor vehicle and parts dealers sales climb 1.4%.

Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers dropped by 1.6% in February, after rising in the previous two months.

U.S. stocks have pared early gains and are mostly sluggish, despite strong jobless claims and retail sales data.

European stocks closed slightly higher, with investors shrugging off weak economic data and focusing on earnings. Markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended mixed.

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