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CANADA STOCKS-TSX rallies to highest close in nearly 3 weeks

Thursday, 4 Oct 2012 | 5:11 PM ET

(Adds details, commentary)

* TSX ends up 88.21 points, or 0.7 pct, at 12,447.68

* Eight of 10 sectors end higher

By Claire Sibonney

TORONTO, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index notched its highest closing level in nearly three weeks on Thursday after reassuring comments from the European Central Bank chief and signs of improvement in the U.S. labor market supported demand for riskier assets.

Heavily-weighted financial and resource shares rose sharply, with the latter helped by higher prices for the underlying commodities.

Oil prices were up about 4 percent, getting an extra boost from inflamed tensions between Turkey and Syria, while gold hit its highest level in 11 months.

Among the top gainers, Royal Bank of Canada

rose 0.9 percent to C$57.53, Barrick Gold jumped 1.8 percent to C$41.36 and Suncor Energy added 1.3 percent to C$33.15.

"Today we got the big run-up in crude oil, so that's supported the energy sector ... but I think for cyclical stocks, folks may be looking for greater visibility that growth in China is picking up," said Fergal Smith, managing market strategist at Action Economics.

Data on Wednesday showed China's normally robust services sector weakened to an almost two-year low last month, while U.S. numbers rose, defying expectations for a slight decrease.

The TSX's slant towards globally economic sensitive commodity companies - which make up about half of the index - has caused the index to dramatically lag Wall Street in 2012. The TSX is up about 4 percent year to date, versus a 16 percent rise for the S&P 500.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index

ended Thursday's session up 88.21 points, or 0.71 percent, to 12,447.68. Eight of the 10 sectors were positive.

Lifting sentiment, ECB President Mario Draghi said the central is ready to buy the bonds of euro zone member countries that ask for it, leaving the door open to a widely expected bailout of Spain.

"Draghi has shown that he's someone you don't want to mess with and the market needs to understand that he's going to do whatever it takes to ensure that the euro survives," said Barry Schwartz vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services.

The euro zone is also considering aiding Spain by providing insurance for investors who buy government bonds in a move designed to maintain Spanish access to capital markets and minimize the cost to European taxpayers, European sources said.

On the data front, fewer than expected Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, setting up expectations for a decent U.S. monthly jobs report on Friday.

U.S. employers are expected to have added 113,000 jobs to their payrolls in September, an increase from 96,000 in August, according to a Reuters survey of economists.

"I think at the margin, U.S. data has been coming in better than expected, particularly the ISM services data this week and the jobless claims, the bounce was leaner than had been expected," added Smith.

In company news, SNC-Lavalin Inc

rose 1.5 percent to C$38.25, after the government of British Columbia said the company will design, build and finance a C$1.4 billion ($1.43 billion) light rail line.

(Reporting by Claire Sibonney, editing by G Crosse)

((claire.sibonney@thomsonreuters.com; +1-416-941-8142, Reuters Messaging: claire.sibonney.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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Keywords: MARKETS CANADA/STOCKS