By John Tilak
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index jumped more than 1 percent to hit nearly a two-month high on Tuesday, fueled by gains in most major sectors and optimism following positive economic data from Europe.
British inflation fell twice as fast as expected last month, giving incoming Bank of England Governor Mark Carney more leeway for stimulus. Another report showed that Germany is on track for a solid recovery due to a pickup in demand for its products from abroad.
Investors also awaited minutes expected on Wednesday from the U.S. Federal Reserve's most recent policy-making meeting to look for clues about whether the central bank will continue its ongoing stimulus program.
Stocks were supported by strength in resource groups, reflecting gains in the prices of some commodities on Monday, when the Canadian stock market was closed for the Victoria Day holiday.
The resources-heavy Toronto market, up for the third straight session, has climbed 2.5 percent for the year to play catch-up with the S&P 500 (.SPX), which has recorded much steeper gains.
"The gap between the U.S. market and the Canadian market will narrow as the year goes on," said Bob Gorman, chief portfolio strategist at TD Waterhouse, in Toronto.
Gorman expects the Canadian index to end the year about 6 percent higher.
He sees a rebound in the resource sector because of low expectations built into share prices.
"If we get some modest pickup in economic growth as we get into the second half of the year, that will allay fears of further declines in commodity prices," he added.
The materials and energy sectors have been hit hard this year by weak commodity prices.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index (.GSPTSE) climbed 129.38 points, or 1.03 percent, to close at 12,742.43. Earlier, the index reached 12,806.54, its highest point since March 22.
Investors are starting to recognize the value in the TSX even though "it has been the ugly duckling and the red-headed stepchild all year," said Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services, in Toronto.
"We've had a number of names that are blowing higher," he added. "You can make money in Canada if you avoid the commodities."
Eight of the index's 10 main sectors were higher on Tuesday.
The materials sector index, which includes mining stocks, jumped 1.6 percent, helped by a 3.3 percent rise in shares of gold producers.
An index of energy stocks climbed 1.3 percent.
Financials, the Toronto index's most heavily weighted sector, added almost 1.5 percent.
Royal Bank of Canada (Toronto:RY.TO - News) shot up 2.7 percent to C$63.86, and Bank of Nova Scotia (Toronto:BNS.TO - News) rose 1.7 percent to C$59.74. They were two of the market's most influential gainers; both are among TD Waterhouse strategist Gorman's top picks.
(Editing by Andrew Hay and Jan Paschal)