(Adds specific stocks, updates prices)
* TSX up 12.41 points, or 0.08 percent, to 15,612.09
* Eight of the TSX’s 10 main groups move higher
* Decliners outnumber advancers by 1.25-to-1
TORONTO, March 2 (Reuters) - Canada’s benchmark stock index eked out a small gain in morning trade on Thursday as shares of a major oil producer surged on a strong earnings report, helping offset weakness among gold miners.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, the country’s largest independent petroleum producer, jumped 4.1 percent to C$40.05 after reporting a quarterly profit that blew past analysts’ expectations.
The materials group, however, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 1.4 percent as gold and copper prices were pressured by a stronger U.S. dollar on growing expectations the U.S. central bank will raise interest rates this month.
Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold producer, fell 3.3 percent to C$24.41, and gold royalty company Franco-Nevada Corp declined 2.1 percent to C$85.09.
At 10:53 a.m. ET (1553 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 12.41 points, or 0.08 percent, to 15,612.09.
Eight of the index’s 10 main groups were in positive territory, but decliners were outnumbering advancers by a 1.25-to-1 ratio.
Toronto-Dominion Bank, Canada’s second-largest lender, fell 1 percent to C$68.82 even as a strong performance in both the United States and Canada helped it close off bank earnings season with quarterly earnings modestly ahead of market expectations.
“As the last reporting bank, the surprise element of a strong quarter is missing,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Darko Mihelic.
In the past week, some major Canadian banks have reported quarterly earnings that handily beat forecasts, including Bank of Montreal which on Tuesday posted a profit that smashed market expectations.
The financials group gained 0.4 percent overall.
The energy group gained 0.5 percent, even as oil prices fell after U.S. crude stocks hit an all-time high and official data showed Russia did not cut oil production in February.
First Capital Realty Inc declined 3.6 percent to C$20.29 after a shareholder said it would sell 9 million of the retail property developer’s shares.
The Canadian economy grew at a faster pace than expected in the final quarter of last year, lifted by consumer spending and a rebound in activity in the housing market, while imports tumbled, data from Statistics Canada showed. (Reporting by Alastair Sharp, additional reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by W Simon)