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At midday: TSX rises as oil prices boost energy stocks

A Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) logo is seen in Toronto in this file photo.

© Mark Blinch / Reuters

Canada's main stock index approached an all-time high in morning trade on Wednesday, with energy stocks leading the gains as U.S. crude prices hit their highest level since July last year.

At 11:18 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 14.33 points, or 0.09 per cent, at 16,090.98.

It hit an all-time high of 16,131.79 on Nov. 7.

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The energy group, which accounts for almost a fifth of the index's weight, climbed 0.7 per cent as U.S. crude prices rose.

One of the largest percentage gainer on the index was NexGen Energy Ltd., which rose 6.4 per cent, while the most influential was Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., which added 1.1 per cent to $44.29.

The move higher for oil was in part due to TransCanada Corp. cutting crude flows from Canada into the United States. TransCanada fell 1.5 per cent to $63.29.

Six of the index's 10 main groups were in positive territory, with the financials group up 0.2 per cent and the materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, adding 0.5 per cent.

Wall Street indexes treaded water, staying near record levels, in late morning trading on Wednesday as technology and energy stocks battled for influence and investors awaited the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting.

The S&P technology index fell 0.26 per cent, after two days of gains, led by losses in Hewlett Packard Enterprise after Meg Whitman said she would leave as chief executive in February, six years into the job.

HP Enterprise fell more than 9 per cent. HP Inc., which holds the computer and printer business that Ms. Whitman carved out of old Hewlett Packard, fell 8 per cent after reporting an unimpressive profit.

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The energy index rose 0.62 per cent as U.S. crude prices jumped 1.7 per cent, easing only slightly from more than two year highs after data showed U.S. crude stocks declined largely in line with expectations.

Trading volumes were thin ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and an early close on Friday. The CBOE Volatility index, known as Wall Street's fear gauge, was down for the fifth session in a row and at two-week lows.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 17.09 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 23,573.74, the S&P 500 was down 0.07 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 2,598.96 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 4.93 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 6,867.41.

The Fed minutes are due at 2:00 p.m. ET and will be scrutinized for the policymakers' thinking on inflation for more clarity on what they might do under a new chair next year.

The minutes come a day after outgoing Chair Janet Yellen said she still expects inflation to rebound soon, added she was "very uncertain" if that would happen and was open to the possibility that prices could remain low for years.

"The market is going to look at the minutes with an eye towards confirming what Yellen said," said Thomas Martin, senior portfolio manager at GlobAlt Investments in Atlanta.

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"If the body language on inflation is more uncertain then that would provide for a slower rate path, that's good for the market."

A final quarter-point rise under Ms. Yellen next month is almost fully baked in. The pace of hikes have also been slow enough not to scare stock investors who have thrived on a decade of cheap money. The S&P is up about 16 percent this year so far.

Among stocks, tractor maker Deere & Co. rose nearly 5 per cent to record high after reporting upbeat quarterly earnings and issuing a strong profit forecast for the year.

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