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At midday: TSX gains with oil stocks, Empire; miners weigh

Specialist Thomas McArdle, left, works with traders Michael Milano, center, and John Santiago, right, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, Sept. 11.

Richard Drew/AP

Canada's main stock index rose on Thursday as higher oil prices drove gains by energy companies, offsetting losses for miners after the value of copper and other base metals fell.

Empire Co, the parent company of the Sobeys grocery chain, soared 15 per cent to $22.70 after reporting adjusted earnings and revenue that beat analyst expectations.

The energy group climbed 1.4 per cent with Encana Corp adding 3.9 per cent to $12.88 and Suncor Energy Inc advancing 1.3 per cent to $41.47.

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U.S. crude prices gained 1.5 per cent to $50.04 a barrel after the International Energy Agency said a global oil surplus was shrinking.

At 11:18 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 36.79 points, or 0.24 per cent, at 15,163.78.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 0.1 per cent, with Teck Resources falling 2.3 per cent to $26.08 and Ivanhoe Mines Ltd down 3 per cent to $4.22.

Copper prices hit a four-week low as disappointing data from China pointed to slowing demand from the metal's top consumer.

Eldorado Gold Corp rose 1.4 per cent to $2.83 after the miner received an arbitration notice from Greece.

Toronto-Dominion Bank was up 0.2 per cent at $67.20 after the U.S. Federal Reserve approved its acquisition of Scottrade Financial Services, as expected.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd moved up 1.0 per cent to $193.56 and Canadian National Railway Co added 0.9 per cent to $98.90, a day after both operators spoke optimistically about grain volumes for the rest of the year.

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Six of the index's 10 main groups were in positive territory.

The S&P and Dow clawed back earlier losses to trade little change on Thursday morning, helped by a jump in energy stocks as oil prices jumped, but the Nasdaq was kept lower by a drop in consumer discretionary shares.

U.S. stocks opened lower after a Labor Department report showed consumer prices rose more than expected in August, boosting the odds of another interest rate hike this year.

The consumer price index's (CPI) 0.4-per-cent gain last month was its biggest in seven months and is the last major economic data to be released ahead of the Federal Reserve's Sept. 19-20 policy meeting.

The firming in inflation, along with a weekly jobless claims report that showed the labor market stays near full employment, could cause the Fed to consider raising rates for a third time this year in December.

"I don't think the market was expecting that kind of a strength in terms of inflation," said Victor Jones, director of trading at TD Ameritrade.

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"What people want is know is whether or not Yellen is going to talk about the lack of inflation as transitory, or whether it is continuing to concern them. The tone coming out of September meeting will help drive the expectations into December."

After the data was released, the odds of a hike in December rose to top 50 per cent for the first time since July, from 41.3 per cent, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 10.64 points, or 0.05 per cent, at 22,168.82 and the S&P 500 was down 2.21 points, or 0.09 per cent, at 2,496.16.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 14.38 points, or 0.22 per cent, at 6,445.81.

Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher.

The energy index's 0.94-per-cent rise led the gainers as U.S. crude hit $50 per barrel for the first time since Aug. 10 on a bullish demand forecast by the International Energy Agency.

Helping the Dow stay in positive territory was Boeing , which rose 1.3 per cent after Deutsche Bank raised its price target on the stock.

The consumer discretionary index was down 0.33 per cent, led by declines of 0.7 per cent to 0.9 per cent in Amazon , Disney and Charter Communications.

Equifax tumbled as much as 8.9 per cent to its lowest level since February 2015 after the Federal Trade Commission opened a probe into the company's massive data breach.

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