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TSX rises amid solid Canadian jobs growth, traders look for upside in U.S. data

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed with a solid gain Friday as traders put the best face on American jobs data that widely missed forecasts.

The S&P/TSX composite index climbed 73.1 points to 13,786.5.

The loonie closed up 0.26 of a cent to 90.59 cents US amid strong Canadian employment gains in January.

Statistics Canada said the economy created 29,400 jobs, far higher than the 20,000 that economists had been expecting, while the unemployment rate slid to 7.0 per cent from 7.2 per cent.

The showing was a big improvement from December when the economy shed 44,000 jobs.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrials jumped 165.55 points to 15,794.08 as the U.S. Labor Department reported that 113,000 jobs were created in January against the approximately 180,000 that had been expected.

Still, the unemployment rate moved down to 6.6 per cent from 6.7 per cent, the lowest since October 2008, even as labour force participation increased.

The Nasdaq moved up 68.74 points to 4,125.86 and the S&P 500 index rose 23.59 points to 1,797.02.

The weak U.S. jobs performance followed a meagre gain of 74,000 American jobs in December that was largely blamed on the weather. Some analysts suggested that markets were willing to let fierce winter weather that continued into January take some of the blame for a second weak month of job creation.

"It’s a glass-half-full view of the world as opposed to half-empty when you look at the data," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse.

"I think the market looked at this number and said: 'It’s not great but it’s better than the last month; we know there are weather issues.'"

Finding the bright side of the jobs data pushed the Dow industrials up 0.6 per cent this week while rising energy stocks were primarily responsible for a 0.67 per cent gain on the TSX.

The January U.S. employment report has been seen as especially key as markets have seen much volatility in recent weeks on worries about indications of slowing manufacturing in China and the United States.

Emerging economies have also been a worry because markets those countries have been hit by the Federal Reserve's program of cutting back on its key stimulus measure of massive bond buying.

The stimulus had kept long long-term rates low and encouraged a flood of cheap money into emerging markets. But the Fed has moved to cut back on asset purchases and the markets now have to deal with an outflow of funds.

Mining stocks led TSX gains with the gold sector up three per cent as April bullion gained $5.70 to US$1,262.90 an ounce.

The base metals component was ahead 1.87 per cent as March copper moved ahead one cent to US$3.24 a pound.

The energy sector led decliners, down 0.33 per cent even as March crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose $2.04 to US$99.88 a barrel.

Baytex Energy (TSX:BTE) was a major weight after it said Thursday that it is expanding into the lucrative Eagle Ford oil shale development in Texas through a $2.6-billion acquisition of Aurora Oil & Gas Ltd. Its shares fell $1.91, or 4.59 per cent, to $39.72.

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