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Oil prices gain for fifth straight day, pushing TSX and loonie higher



TORONTO — The price of oil rose for a fifth consecutive day Monday, helping provide a boost to the Toronto stock market amid growing concern about geopolitical risks in the Middle East.

The S&P/TSX composite index was ahead 63.66 points to 15,730.79 as the energy and industrials sector led with the biggest gains.

The strength in oil prices also helped lift the Canadian dollar, which climbed 0.44 of a cent to 75.01 cents US.

Tensions between the U.S. and Syria have helped lift the value of a barrel of a crude, with the May contract gaining 84 cents to US$53.08 per barrel. The May natural gas contract lost two cents at US$3.24 per mmBTU.

"Any time you're talking about geopolitical uncertainties related to the Middle East, you see oil prices react to the upside," said Craig Fehr, a Canadian markets strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

"Typically you'll see the markets settle itself out as those uncertainties start to subside. I think we're in a period at the moment where there are more questions and answers and that's why we're seeing oil prices react to the upside."

Last week, the U.S. attacked a Syrian airbase with cruise missiles after the Syrian military used chemical weapons against civilians.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. missile strikes carry a message for any nation operating outside of international norms.

Fehr said the troubles in Syria have led some to question whether oil supplies will continue to build in the Middle East in the short term. 

"I still continue to think it's probably an environment where oil stays right around this price, in a range around this price for some time to come," he said, noting that reports out of the U.S. still show a growing number of shale producers are continuing to come back online.

In other commodities, the June gold contract was down $3.40 at US$1,253.90 an ounce and May copper contracts were down four cents at US$2.60 a pound.

On Wall Street, indexes were muted, with no major economic reports to rely on. It's anticipated that trading will pick up later this week as earnings season kicks off, with some of the major U.S. banks scheduled to report on Thursday.

The Dow Jones industrial average was barely changed, gaining 1.92 points to 20,658.02.

Similarly, the S&P 500 index added 1.62 points to 2,357.16 and the Nasdaq composite index was up 3.11 points to 5,880.93.

— With files from The Associated Press.

Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.

Linda Nguyen, The Canadian Press

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