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A worker walks on an oil pipeline at Khurmala oilfield on the outskirts of the city of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region December 4, 2013. (STRINGER/IRAQ/REUTERS)
A worker walks on an oil pipeline at Khurmala oilfield on the outskirts of the city of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region December 4, 2013. (STRINGER/IRAQ/REUTERS)

At midday: Markets in positive territory; oil continues to rise Add to ...

North American markets rallied Friday as the price of oil hit nearly $107 a barrel amid concerns that crude supplies could be put at risk if the insurgency in Iraq continues.

The S&P/TSX composite index added 57.03 points to 14,937.13. The Canadian dollar gained 0.03 of a cent to 92.09 cents (U.S.).

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In Iraq, Islamic militants vowed to march on to Baghdad after pushing deep into parts of the country’s Sunni heartland that was previously controlled by U.S. forces. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an al-Qaeda-inspired group, captured two key cities earlier this week and has now taken over two towns in an ethnically mixed province northeast of the capital.

As a result, concerns are growing over whether the conflict will put at risk the world’s stable oil market. One of the two cities that were invaded, Mosul, lies in an area that is a major gateway for Iraqi oil and exports about three million barrels a day.

The July crude contract on the New York mercantile Exchange gained 14 cents to $106.67 (U.S.) a barrel.

On Wall Street, U.S. indexes were higher as the Dow Jones industrials jumped 36.51 points to 16,770.70, the Nasdaq climbed 16.72 points to 4,314.35 and the S&P 500 saw an uptick of 5.68 points to 1,935.79.

Senior wealth adviser Andrew Pyle said equity markets are taking back some of the losses seen in the last few sessions, and that oil has given them the support to do so.

“I would look at today as more of a tentative pickup of stocks,” he said.

“There is still a very strong possibility that we see the situation in Iraq get worse over the weekend. And if that were to happen, the higher chance that we see oil reach up to $110-range that we saw back in August and September of last year. If we were to see that on the weekend, then you would see a totally different picture for stocks Monday then we’re currently seeing for Friday.”

Pyle said analysts and traders have recently been questioning whether equities are being overvalued going into the summer, especially when economic data, particularly in the U.S., supports a tepid pace of recovery. He adds that if the energy markets were to go into crisis-mode, it would only exacerbate these fears.

“Traders believe that fundamentals, in the U.S., and maybe globally, don’t support current valuations,” he said. “It’s not to say we would see a significant correction, but the highs that we saw in May and June really require a stronger fundamental picture than what we’re seeing from the world economy.”

In other commodities, August bullion climbed $1 to $1,275 an ounce, while July copper advanced two cents to $3.03 a pound.

There were also a number of acquisition deals for traders to digest.

Montreal’s Amaya Gaming Group Inc. says it’s buying the company that owns PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for $4.9-billion in an all-cash deal.

Amaya says the transaction will create the world’s largest publicly traded online gaming company with its acquisition of the Oldford Group, parent company of the Rational Group Ltd. Online poker platforms PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are globally popular brands with more than 85 million registered players on desktop and mobile devices. Shares in Amaya jumped 40 per cent, or $5.69, to $19.77 by mid-day on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In the U.S., online discount travel company Priceline is buying a restaurant reservation booking company OpenTable for $2.6-billion.

OpenTable seats more than 15 million diners per month at more than 31,000 restaurants. OpenTable allows users to make free reservations at restaurants through its website and mobile apps. It makes money by charging restaurants fees for the bookings. Users can also read reviews of the restaurants and view menus through the website.

Shares in Priceline fell a little nearly two per cent, or $20.08 (U.S.) to $1,205.37 in New York.

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