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TSX boosted by banks, but falls 6.3% for month

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Toronto's main stock index rallied on Thursday, led higher by financial issues on strong second-quarter bank earnings and as oil and gold shares pared earlier losses.

However, the index still recorded its largest monthly drop, falling 6.3 percent since September as commodity markets were rattled in May by an escalation in the euro zone debt crisis.

Nine of Canada's ten main sectors finished higher, led by the financial group, which jumped 1.5 percent on better-than-expected second-quarter results from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and National Bank of Canada.

Shares of CIBC, Canada's No. 5 bank, jumped 2.5 percent to a two-week high at $72.07 after the company reported a 6 percent increase in net profit due partly to higher loan volumes.

Smaller rival National Bank's shares edged up 0.7 percent to $73.66 after it said core profit rose 6 percent and increased its quarterly dividend by 5 percent.

Royal Bank of Canada shares led the sector's gains, rising 1.8 percent to $51.55.

"That's been one of the few bright spots on the TSX," said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver. "That's giving an element of support to the TSX, because the other two major groups - materials and energy - have literally fallen off a cliff."

For the month the materials index, which includes miners, shed 7.3 percent, while the oil and gas sector plunged 11.9 percent.

On Thursday, both groups were flat, with materials down 0.1 percent and energy up by the same amount.

Cenovus Energy, which rose 1.4 percent to $32.55, led oil gains, reversing early losses despite crude futures on both sides of the Atlantic posting their biggest monthly decline in years.

Losses on the materials side were led by the sub-group of base metals miners, which fell 0.4 percent. Teck Resources was among the most influential declines, falling 1.1 percent to C$30.94 as copper prices hit a 2012 low and plummeted 11 percent in May.

"Just when you think they can't go any lower, they go punishingly lower," said Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index (TSX-I) finished up 79.99 points, or 0.7 percent, at 11,513.21.

The market has been preoccupied with the euro zone debt crisis, but a slew of soft data on Thursday raised doubts about the strength of the U.S. recovery.

A report by private payrolls processor ADP showed private U.S. employers created 133,000 jobs in May, fewer than the expected 148,000, while new claims for unemployment benefits rose by 10,000 for the fourth straight weekly increase. The data comes ahead of Friday's government payrolls report.

Adding to the negative tone, the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometer declined to 52.7 from 56.2 in April, its lowest level since September 2009 and below Wall Street expectations.

Spain was in the center of the latest developments as markets judged the Madrid government would sooner or later have to ask for outside help to bail out its banks. On Thursday, however, International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde denied a media report that the IMF was considering contingency plans for a Spanish bailout.

A new Greek poll that showed Greece's conservative pro-bailout New Democracy party had a slim lead in the run-up to the June 17 election helped ease concerns about whether the country would remain in the euro zone.

On another positive note, Canada's information and technology sector jumped 4.3 percent on news that CGI Group Inc. agreed to buy Anglo-Dutch IT services firm Logica for $2.64 billion. CGI's shares surged 14 percent to $23.95.

Canadian Pacific Railway shares climbed 1.3 percent to $76.08 after the Canadian government passed back-to-work legislation on Thursday to end an eight-day strike at Canada's second-largest railway operator.

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