Energy and gold stocks lead TSE higher

Oil and gas stocks and golds led the TSE higher Monday as fears of a wider Middle East conflict drove crude and precious metal prices higher.

At the close of trading, the TSE 300 Composite Index was up 37.13 points to 7888.50.

Eight of the TSE's 14 industry groups were ahead on the day, led by a 3.2 per cent gain by the gold sector. Oil and gas stocks were 1.93 per cent higher.

Crude oil futures for May delivery rose above the $27-US-a-barrel mark for the first time since last September.

Precision Drilling was up $2.23 to $53.20; Talisman Energy climbed $1.10 to $67.55; Alberta Energy rose $1.66 to $71.17.

June Gold futures were up 40 cents at $303.70 US.

Barrick Gold rose $1.06 to $30.21.

Nortel rose 37 cents to $7.38, leading the industrial products sector to a 1.17 per cent gain. Banc of America Securities upgraded Nortel (among other telecom stocks) from "market performer" to "buy", citing a cyclical recovery in the sector.

BCE rose 10 cents to $28.08 its first gain following 10 straight declines.

QLT shares took a big hit (down $3.09 to $23.96) after the U.S. Medicare and Medicaid insurance plans said they would not cover QLT's Visudyne treatment for the occult form of age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

U.S. blue chips were weak on pessimism over earnings, valuations, and downgrades.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 41.24 points at 10362.70.

Shares of Ford fell 5 per cent to $15.73 US after Prudential downgraded the stock to "sell".

Xerox shares rose 3 per cent to $11.08 US. The company agreed to pay a $10 million US fine and will refile its financial statements back to 1997 as part of a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Wal-Mart shares fell $1.74 US to $59.56 US after UBS Warburg and Merrill Lynch downgraded the retailing giant on valuation concerns. Ironically, the downgrade came on the same day that Fortune magazine reported that Wal-Mart was now the biggest company in the world, supplanting ExxonMobil.

The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 17.27 points to 1862.62.

Sun Microsystems shares surged 70 cents to $9.52 US after a Merrill Lynch analyst said the company would meet its revenue guidance for the just-completed quarter as demand picked up in the last week-and-a-half.