TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed solidly higher Tuesday as rising commodity prices helped stem three days of heavy losses.The S&P/TSX composite index was up 74.38 points at 14,817.71 following an almost 214-point drop Monday. In all, Canada's largest stock exchange gave back more than 400 points over the three-day stretch that began with a 135-point drop last Thursday.On commodity markets, the July crude contract gained $2 to US$60.14 a barrel and the energy sector was the leading advancer on the TSX, up 1.76 per cent.July copper added almost two cents to US$2.71 a pound, and the metals and mining sector rose 1.73 per cent. August gold gained $4 to US$1,177.60 an ounce, but the sector was the worst performer on the index, down more than 1.6 per cent at the TSX close.The loonie, buoyed by the rise in oil prices, gained 0.34 of a U.S. cent to 81 cents.In New York, markets were relatively flat, with the Dow Jones industrial average finishing 2.51 points lower at 17,764.04 and the Nasdaq down 7.76 points at 5,013.87. The S&P 500 gained 0.87 of a point to 2,080.15.American markets have trended lower over the last few weeks amid a number of concerns, including speculation about when the U.S. Federal Reserve will raise interest rates. Historically low rates have been credited with providing liquidity that has helped fuelled market gains since the Great Recession.A solid jobs report last Friday indicated that the American economy has recovered from its winter slump, leading to suggestions that the Fed will raise its benchmark sooner rather than later.More clarity on the issue may emerge when the American central bank meets next week.Good news on the jobs front continued Tuesday as the U.S. Labor Department reported that American employers advertised more job openings in April than at any time in the 15 years that it has tracked such data.The number of open jobs at the end of April jumped 5.2 per cent to 5.4 million. The figure suggests that employers anticipate stronger customer demand in the months ahead and that this year's steady hiring to date will likely continue.On Friday, the government had said U.S. employers added 280,000 jobs in May after a healthy gain in April. Average hourly wages also ticked up.Tuesday's figures show "the bigger than expected gain in employment in May was no fluke," said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics. "Labour market conditions are strengthening and wage growth will accelerate further."In other economic news, the Commerce Department said U.S. wholesalers boosted stockpiles in April by the largest amount since January, up 0.4 per cent over March, while their sales surged at the fastest pace in 13 months, up 1.6 per cent after falling in March.An increase in inventories can be an indication of rising business optimism as companies restock empty store shelves in anticipation of stronger demand.— With files from The Associated Press
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