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Toronto market ends higher as metal prices rally

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

By Purvi Agarwal and Fergal Smith

(Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended higher on Thursday as higher metal prices boosted the materials sector, but the market's gains were held in check as investors worried that interest rate cuts could be delayed.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended up 52.39 points, or 0.2%, at 21,708.44, while the S&P 500 closed lower for a fifth straight session.

The decline for the U.S. benchmark stock index came as economic data and comments from Federal Reserve officials suggested the central bank was unlikely to cut interest rates in the near future.

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"It is continuing to look like a higher rates for longer situation and it might not be until next year that we start to see rates come down," said Graham Priest, investment advisor at BlueShore Financial.

The TSX snapped its own recent losing streak on Wednesday but gains were capped by the Canadian government's planned tax increase on investment profits.

Canada's plan to raise taxes on the savings of wealthy people and corporations is likely to hold back investment, potentially adding to the productivity malaise that has held back economic growth in recent years, say economists.

The materials sector, which includes metal miners and fertilizer companies, climbed 1.2% as gold and copper prices rose, with shares of First Quantum Minerals Ltd ending 8.9% higher.

The utilities group was another bright spot, adding 1.1%, and heavily-weighted financials were up 0.3%.

Energy was a drag, falling 0.5%, as the price of oil held near its lowest level in three weeks. U.S. crude oil futures settled 4 cents higher at $82.73 a barrel.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith in Toronto and Purvi Agarwal in Bengaluru; Editing by Ravi Prakash Kumar and Josie Kao)