(RTTNews.com) - Canadian stocks ended slightly higher on Thursday, driven largely by gains in the energy sector after U.S. crude oil prices jumped to a near nine-month high on fears the chaos in Iraq could disrupt oil supplies from the region, notwithstanding some mixed economic data out of the U.S.
The main index ended lower yesterday, snapping an eight-day winning streak with global equity markets trending lower after the World Bank revised its global economic growth projections lower.
Crude oil prices surged amid escalating violence in Iraq, where militants were reportedly edging closer to the capital, Baghdad. The al-Qaeda affiliated militants took control of two key cities -- Mosul and Tikrit earlier in the week. Meanwhile, NBC News reported that the Government of Iraq has asked the United States for air assistance in quelling the uprising by al-Qaeda affiliated militants, which President Barack Obama is said to have refused.
The militants are also reportedly in part control of Baiji, an oil refining center, and moving towards a major Shia town close to Baghdad.
In some mixed economic data from the U.S., retail sales rose less than expected, while weekly initial claims for unemployment benefits increased. However, business inventories increased more than anticipated in April, while import and export prices showed modest increases in May.
The S&P/TSX Composite Index closed Thursday at 14,909.63, up 17.50 points or 0.12 percent. The index scaled an intraday high of 14,922.64 and a low of 14,847.43.
Crude oil soared to end at a near nine-month high on Thursday, on supply concerns after militants in Iraq overran two major cities with reports the jihadists inching closer to Baghdad.
The Energy Index jumped 1.69 percent, with U.S. crude oil futures for July delivery, the most actively traded contract, surging $2.13 or 2.0 percent to close at $106.53 a barrel Thursday on the Nymex.
Among energy stocks, Encana Corp. (ECA.TO) added 2.17 percent, while Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNQ.TO) gained 1.77 percent. Talisman Energy Inc. (TLM.TO) dropped 0.09 percent, while Suncor Energy Inc. (SU.TO) added 2.81 percent. Enbridge Inc. (ENB.TO) added 0.44 percent and Cenovus Energy Inc. (CVE:TO) gained 3.24 percent.
The Financial Index dropped 0.42 percent with Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) down 0.23 percent, Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) down 0.26 percent, Toronto-Dominion Bank down 0.49 percent, Bank of Nova Scotia surrendered 0.33 percent, and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) edging up 0.07 percent.
The Capped Healthcare Index shed 2.20 percent with Catamaran Corp. (CCT.TO) slipping 1.22 percent, Extendicare Inc. (EXE.TO) down 1.77 percent, and Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc. (VRX.TO) surrendered 3.66 percent.
The Global Gold Index climbed 2.72 percent, with gold futures for August delivery gaining $12.80 or 1.0 percent to close at $1,274.00 an ounce Thursday on the Nymex.
Among gold stocks, B2Gold Corp. (BTO.TO) jumped 7.69 percent, Yamana Gold Inc. (YRI.TO) added 3.42 percent, Osisko Mining Corp. (OSK.TO) gained 1.90 percent, Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX.TO) was up 1.68 percent, and Kinross Gold Corp. (K.TO) added 2.28 percent.
The Capped Materials Index gained 1.30 percent, with Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. (POT.TO) slipping 0.18 percent.
The Diversified Metals & Mining Index dived 1.32 percent, with Lundin Mining Corp. (LUN.TO) down 0.54 percent, First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (FM.TO) down 1.87 percent, and Teck Resources Limited (TCK.B.TO) down 2.44 percent.
The Information Technology Index gained 0.13 percent, with BlackBerry Limited (BB.TO) climbing 4.14 percent and Celestica Inc. (CLS.TO) down 0.08 percent.
The Capped Industrials Index fell 0.57 percent, with Bombardier Inc. (BBD.B.TO) ending flat at $3.83 a share, even as Air Canada (AC.B) plummeted 9.60 percent.
Meanwhile, Lululemon (LLL.TO) ended flat after the yogawear maker lowered its full year guidance while reporting a drop in profit. Yesterday, Lululemon shareholders voted for the re-election of chairman Michael Casey despite its founder and largest shareholder Chip Wilson voting against him.
Package tour operator Transat A.T. Inc. posted a loss in the second quarter as the impact of the lower Canadian dollar weighed. Still, the results beat expectations.
In economic news, U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in May. The Commerce Department said on Thursday retail sales gained 0.3 percent last month. Retail sales rose by a revised 0.5 percent in April.
First-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly increased in the week ended June 7, a Labor Department report said Thursday. Initial jobless claims edged up to 317,000, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week's revised level of 313,000. Economists expected jobless claims to dip to 310,000 from the 312,000 originally reported for the previous week.
Business inventories in the U.S. increased by more than anticipated in April, with inventories rising 0.6 percent in April following a 0.4 percent increase in March. Economists expected inventories to match the growth seen in the previous month.
Meanwhile, import and export prices in the U.S. showed modest increases in May, as import prices inched up 0.1 percent in May after falling by a revised 0.5 percent in April. Import prices were expected to edge up by 0.2 percent. Export prices ticked up 0.1 percent in May following a 1.0 percent drop in the previous month. Economists expected export prices to rise by 0.2 percent.
From the Europe, euro area industrial production rose a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent from March, when it fell 0.4 percent, which was downwardly revised from a 0.3 percent decline. The monthly growth in April was the strongest since November last year, when output rose 1.4 percent. Economists had forecast a 0.5 percent increase for April.
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