Oil soars 12%, stock markets score big gains

North American stock markets delivered triple-digit gains today as oil rebounded and investors shook off the gloom that had driven stocks down steadily this week.

Rally ends 5 consecutive down days on the TSX

Glenn Carell, foreground, works with traders at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, on Friday. Canadian and U.S. stocks were higher, seeking their first gain this week, as beaten-down energy and financial companies rebounded. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

North American stock markets delivered triple-digit gains on Friday as oil rebounded and investors shook off the gloom that had driven stocks down steadily this week.

In Toronto, the benchmark S&P/TSX composite index jumped 294 points, or 2.4 per cent, to close at 12,381.

That ends, at least for now, five consecutive losing sessions that had seen the index shed almost 760 points.

Every sector advanced, led by energy and financials.

The price of oil, which hit a 12-year low on Thursday, reversed course in dramatic fashion on Friday. March oil futures surged 12.3 per cent, or $3.23 US, to settle at $29.44 US a barrel.

Bloomberg said it was the biggest one-day rise for oil futures in seven years. But prices are still down 21 per cent this year. 

Crude oil began rising late Thursday on prospects for a co-ordinated production cut. Talk of that was sparked by comments from the energy minister of OPEC member United Arab Emirates, who said oil producers were ready to work together.

U.S. retail sales shine

The Dow Jones industrial average surged 314 points, or 2.0 per cent, to close at 15,974.  The broader S&P 500 index rose 36 points, or 2.0 per cent, to 1,865.

Sentiment was being boosted by a report that showed U.S. consumer spending rebounding in January, leading to hopes that economic growth was picking up after stalling at the end of 2015.

"It's too early to say whether [the rally] is the beginning of a more sustained recovery, but it's encouraging and it shows there is still interest in stocks," said John Carey, portfolio manager at Pioneer Investment Management in Boston.
 
The Canadian dollar, which often moves in tandem with oil prices, gained almost a third of a cent and closed at 72.14 cents US.

February gold futures fell $8.80 US to settle at $1,239.10 an ounce, but still had their best week in four years.

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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