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Toronto stock market ends positive despite weaker gold, crude oil prices

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market ended Monday in positive territory after most sectors posted gains, even as key commodities plunged in value.

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market ended Monday in positive territory after most sectors posted gains, even as key commodities plunged in value.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 91.32 points to 11,554.72, in what's expected to be a volatile shortened trading week ahead of the Christmas holiday.

Gold stocks led the down side on the TSX, falling 1.5 per cent as the February bullion contract moved back $15.50 to close at US$1,096 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The value of gold eroded while the U.S. dollar moved higher against other major currencies, with its momentum driven by optimism about the economy.

"The feeling is the (U.S.) economy will do a good deal better in the fourth quarter," said CIBC economist Peter Buchanan.

"That's clearly helping the U.S. dollar, and the flip side of that trade is obviously a lot of people who have been short the dollar have been long in gold. People are reversing that and that's clearly serving to dull some of gold's lustre."

Energy stocks were up 1.3 per cent, with crude oil for the January contract, which expired at the end of the session, fell 89 cents to $72.47. The February contract ended 70 cents lower to $73.72.

Meanwhile, the metals sector gained one per cent as Teck Cominco Ltd. (TSX:TCK.B) moved up 67 cents to $39.48. Financials stocks were up one per cent with Royal Bank (TSX:RY) gaining 98 cents to $55.79.

"Some traders are looking at the technicals on the market and wondering whether we can continue to see the market continue to move higher through the end of the year," said Jason Hornett, co-manager of the Bissett All Canadian Focus Fund in Calgary.

The TSX has recouped most of the losses made on the market earlier this year, but is still well the 11,878 high for the year in early November.

"There's a lot of people going on vacation now, and at the end of the year trading volumes really tend to dry up, so you will see stocks move around, and they will tend to be more volatile," Hornett added.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrials rose 85.25 points to 10,414.14. The Nasdaq composite index was up 25.97 points to 2,237.66, while the S&P 500 index increased 11.58 points to 1,114.05.

The TSX Venture Exchange lost 2.48 points to 1,427.72.

Statistics Canada reported that retail sales rose 0.8 per cent to $35.3 billion in October, returning to levels last seen a year earlier when the recession was still underway.

The Canadian dollar rose 0.41 of a cent to 94.22 cents US.

In corporate news, Agrium Inc. (TSX:AGU) is sticking to its US$5-billion takeover offer for CF Industries Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:CF), but gave CF's shareholders another month to tender their stock. CF's has consistently rejected the proposed deal. Agrium shares were up 94 cents to $63.07.

SNC-Lavalin Inc. (TSX:SNC) has agreed to provide engineering, procurement and construction management services for a US$630-million iron ore concentrator project in Mauritania, with construction scheduled to begin in 2010. Shares rose $1.13 to $51.55.

Air Canada's shares (TSX:AC.B) rose slightly after the company's machinists union warned of "significant" temporary and permanent jobs losses tied to Transport Canada's approval of the airline's request to lengthen the period between aircraft heavy-maintenance checks for some of its fleet. The airline's shares were up a penny to $1.20.

CoolBrands International Inc. (TSX:COB) booked a $232,000 loss in the first-quarter, reversing year-earlier profits of $2.7 million. Shares rose 14 cents to $1.16.

 
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