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Toronto stocks rise as gold miners lead gains

FILE PHOTO: The facade of the original Toronto Stock Exchange building is seen in Toronto

By Nikhil Sharma and Nivedita Balu

(Reuters) -Canada's main stock index rose on Wednesday, boosted by gold shares, ahead of U.S. economic reports which could provide further clues on the Federal Reserve's monetary policy path.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed up 307.73 points, or 1.4%, at 22,350.23.

Materials led sectoral gains, rising 2.2%. They tracked spot gold prices which rose on a stronger case for U.S. interest rate cuts sooner. [GOL/]

South of the border, the S&P 500 crossed 5,600 for the first time as Fed Chair Jerome Powell's comments this week boosted expectations for a rate cut in September. [.N]

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Powell said in his second day of congressional testimony that he was not ready to conclude that inflation was moving sustainably down to 2%, although he expressed "some confidence of that."

"It's a good balancing act ... and that has given some support to the commodities and also to gold, which continues to do well, even in the face of stronger US dollar," said Greg Taylor, chief investment officer of Purpose Investments.

Taylor said TSX could be set up for a better second half of the year as tech names drive the US market higher, leaving room for Canadian stocks to catch up.

Heavyweight energy shares rose 1.2%, while the financial and consumer discretionary sectors rose 0.9% and 1.2% respectively.

To evaluate the trajectory of interest rates, markets will closely watch the U.S. consumer price index due on Thursday and producer price index data scheduled for Friday.

Separately, hopes of another rate cut from the Bank of Canada at its July 24 meeting are high, after the last jobs dataset showed Canadian unemployment at a 29-month high.

"(A) quick rise in unemployment could lead to a negative impact on the economy and a significant drop off in consumer spending," said Graham Priest, investment advisor at BlueShore Financial.

Among individual stocks, Orla Mining gained 2% after the miner reported second-quarter operational results.

An 18-day strike at business jet maker Bombardier's manufacturing facilities in Mississauga and Waterloo ended after members ratified a new contract. Its shares were up 7.5%.

(Reporting by Nikhil Sharma in Bengaluru and Nivedita Balu in Toronto; Editing by Tasim Zahid and Richard Chang)