TSX hits six-month high led by gold miners

A man walks past an old Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) sign in Toronto, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

By Fergal Smith TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index rose to a six-month high on Friday as mining stocks surged on higher gold and base metal prices, while shares of its largest airline jumped after quarterly results were reported. The index ended 3.4 percent higher for the month of April, while it has rebounded 21 percent from an almost 3-1/2-year low in January, but it has been unable to climb back above 14,000. Improving prices in commodities have helped drive the index higher both year-to-date and on Friday, said Noman Ali, a portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management. The index has rallied 7.2 percent year-to-date, which contrasts with losses for many major markets. There is room for the index to rally further as fundamentals for the energy sector improve and as fear of credit losses lessens for financials, said Ali. The most influential movers on the index included Barrick Gold Inc, which jumped 10.3 percent to C$24.29, and First Quantum Minerals Ltd, which surged 16.7 percent to C$10.69 after it reported a bigger-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday. The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 5.4 percent. Gold and silver rallied to their highest since January 2015 as the Bank of Japan's decision the previous day to hold off expanding monetary stimulus weighed on the dollar, while base metal prices also advanced. [GOL/][MET/L] Spot gold rose more than 2 percent. Air Canada rose 12.7 percent to C$9.33 after it reported a first-quarter profit compared with a loss a year earlier, helped by a decline in fuel costs. The energy and financials groups both edged 0.1 percent higher. Oil prices dipped after an early rise to 2016 peaks. U.S. crude settled at $45.92 a barrel, down 0.24 percent. [O/R] The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed up 65.02 points, or 0.47 percent, at 13,951.45. It touched its highest since Oct. 23 at 13,972.62. Just four of the index's 10 main groups ended higher. Railway stocks were a drag, including a 1.8 percent decline in Canadian National Railway Co to C$77.26. Bombardier Inc fell 7.4 percent to C$1.89, as some of this week's gains were pared. The dual class share structure is vital to protect the long-term interests of the Quebec-based company, Executive Chairman Pierre Beaudoin said. Uranium producer Cameco Corp fell 4.7 percent to C$15.70 after reporting an unexpected first-quarter adjusted loss as uranium prices continued to soften. (Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by James Dalgleish)