By John Tilak
TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index posted its fourth straight session of gains on Tuesday as strength in financial and consumer discretionary stocks following comments from central bankers indicating their support of growth-oriented policies offset declines in gold miners after bullion prices tumbled.
The market received further support after Germany, Europe's largest economy, reported a 2.2 percent rise in industrial orders in March, compared with expectations for a 0.5 percent drop.
European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi said the bank was ready to trim rates again if needed, while Australia's central bank cut rates to a new low of 2.75 percent and suggested it may do more.
The comments from key central banks boosted broader equity markets, but dented gold's safe-haven appeal as an alternative investment.
The resource-heavy Toronto market is barely in positive territory on the year due to the weakness of materials and energy stocks.
"There is a tug of war between the cyclical and defensive trades," said Diana Avigdor, portfolio manager and head of trading at Barometer Capital Management.
"The thinking is, going into the second quarter, there could be a rotation into cyclicals," she added.
Consumer discretionary stocks, viewed as cyclical, rose almost 1 percent and were one of the biggest gainers on the index.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index (.GSPTSE) ended up 10.19 points, or 0.08 percent, at 12,464.11. Seven of the 10 main sectors on the index closed higher.
The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, gave back 1.2 percent, hurt by the weakness in gold producers.
Gold shares, down about 37 percent since the start of the year, slid 2.8 percent on Tuesday as gold prices dropped 1.2 percent.
"Not only is the gold price going down, a lot of gold producers have not delivered on forecasts. That's a double whammy on gold equities," said Luciano Orengo, a portfolio manager with Manulife Asset Management.
"I'm not ready to call a bottom yet" for the gold sector, he added.
Financials, the index's most heavily-weighted sector, gained 0.4 percent.
WestJet Airlines Ltd (Toronto:WJA.TO - News) shed 7.5 percent to end at C$22.87 after the airline said it expects revenue per available seat mile to decline in the second quarter, hurt by the timing of the Easter and Passover holidays as well as the cancellation of some business by travel agency Thomas Cook.
"The market is extremely disappointed with the airline earnings," said Avigdor, who owns WestJet shares, but has been discarding airline stocks of late.
"The earnings were not too bad, but they did rattle the confidence of investors because the stocks were priced for perfection," she added, referring also to Air Canada, whose shares also fell after reporting results last week.
BlackBerry (Toronto:BB.TO - News) dropped 5.1 percent to C$14.93 after Pacific Crest Securities issued a downbeat report on sales momentum for smartphones running the company's new BlackBerry 10 operating system. That helped drag the information technology sector down 1.1 percent.
(Editing by Nick Zieminski, G Crosse)