05/21/2015 14:31 EDT | Updated 05/21/2016 01:12 EDT

TSX sharply higher as oil rises above US$60 a barrel; U.S. markets flat

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market was sharply higher Thursday afternoon as the see-sawing price of benchmark oil again bounded above the US$60-a-barrel mark.The S&P/TSX composite index was 129.78 points higher at 15,202.61 after giving back more than 48 points on Wednesday. The loonie was down 0.04 of a U.S. cent at 81.95 cents.In New York, markets traded in a narrow range in the face of mixed economic news in advance of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend.The Dow Jones industrial average was up 5.73 points at 18,291.13, while the Nasdaq rose 14.71 points to 5,086.45 and the S&P 500 advanced 4.43 points to 2,130.28, above its record high close of 1,2129.60 on Monday.On the commodity markets, the July contract for West Texas Intermediate crude oil rose $1.51 to US$60.49 a barrel and the TSX energy sector was the biggest gainer, up 2.24 per cent.June gold fell $5 to US$1,203.70 an ounce.In economic news, the U.S. Labor Department said more Americans sought unemployment aid last week, although the number of applications remained at a historically low level consistent with a healthy job market. Weekly applications increased 10,000 to 274,000, while the four-week average, a less volatile figure, fell to a 15-year low of 266,250.Meanwhile, the Conference Board said its index of leading indicators rose 0.7 per cent last month in its biggest advance since a one per cent increase last July, a sign the American economy is beginning to accelerate from a sharp winter slowdown.Offsetting that was a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which said its index of factory activity slipped to 6.7 in May from 7.5 the previous month, although any reading above zero indicates expansion.In another sign of tepid growth, sales of existing homes slipped in April, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday. Higher home prices and a limited supply of available homes weighed on sales.Overseas, new data showed that manufacturing in China shrank for the third straight month in May. The HSBC preliminary manufacturing index, in which figures below 50.0 indicate contraction, came in at 49.1 versus 48.9 the previous month.— With files from The Associated Press