TORONTO - The Toronto stock market closed sharply higher Wednesday as oil and metal prices shot up and investors took in positive U.S. consumer and housing data.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 97.27 points to 11,636.9 as the U.S. Commerce Department reported that consumer spending rose a brisk 0.7 per cent last month, following a 0.6 per cent pullback in September.

"If you look at the economic data, it is being supportive of the market direction basically -- in other words, the market anticipated all this economic improvement and that's what we have seen," said Sid Mokhtari, market technician at CIBC World Markets.

"The only issue that one could argue is that the thrust in the market is not there anymore. It's more of a grind now, the reason being most of that anticipation ahead of economic improvement was being priced in by the market... and now I think a lot of people are going to say, so what's next?"

The Canadian dollar was up 1.13 cents to 95.65 cents US. The advance came amid a weaker greenback while currency analysts at Scotiabank said the rise was also due to news that the Russian central bank is preparing to invest some of its foreign exchange reserves in the loonie. No amount has been confirmed.

The base metals sector was the best TSX performer, rising 2.59 per cent amid a 5.15-cent rise in the December copper contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange to US$3.16 a pound. Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) advanced $1.19 to $37.48 while HudBay Minerals (TSX:HBM) improved 65 cents to $15.04.

The gold sector was up 1.86 per cent as the December bullion contract on the Nymex continued to head higher into record territory, closing up $21.20 to US$1,187 an ounce because of a weak U.S. currency and speculation that the Indian central bank will buy more gold. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX) climbed 67 cents to C$46.24 and Kinross Gold Corp. (TSX:K) rose 68 cents to $21.20.

B2Gold Corp. (TSX:BTO) jumped 19 cents or 19.39 per cent to $1.17.

The energy sector was up 1.18 per cent with the January crude contract in New York up $1.94 to US$77.96 a barrel even as the U.S. government reported that another one million barrels of crude and an equal amount of gasoline went into storage last week.

Shares in EnCana Corp. (TSX:ECA) rose $1.41 to $57.36 after shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour of a plan to split the Calgary-based energy giant into two companies -- an integrated oil company called Cenovus and a natural gas producer to be called EnCana.

The consumer staples sector was also strong, up almost one per cent with grocery Loblaw Cos Ltd. (TSX:L) ahead 81 cents to $33.08.

Shares in Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (TSX:ATD.B), Canada's largest convenience store operator, rose eight cents to $21.05 after it said it has signed an agreement to acquire from BP West Coast Products LLC their fuel terminal depots in Phoenix, Ariz. Financial terms of the transaction were not revealed.

The TSX Venture Exchange moved up 22.74 points to 1,435.15.

New York indexes were modestly higher as an unexpected drop in durable goods orders took some of the shine off the consumer data and positive news from the housing sector ahead of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

The Dow Jones industrial average added 30.69 points to 10,464.4 after the U.S. Commerce Department said that new home sales rose 6.2 per cent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 430,000 from an upwardly revised 405,000 in September, the highest level in more than a year. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected a pace of 410,000.

The Nasdaq composite index moved 6.87 points higher to 2,176.05 while the S&P index was up 4.98 points to 1,110.63 even as orders for big-ticket factory goods fell unexpectedly by 0.6 per cent in October. Much of the weakness came from an 18.4 per cent drop in defence orders. Excluding those, orders for other types of manufactured goods rose 0.4 per cent in October.

Still, the performance was weaker than the 0.5 per cent rise that economists had expected.

Also, the U.S. Labour Department said new claims for unemployment insurance fell by 35,000 to 466,000. That's the fewest claims since the week ended Sept. 13, 2008, and was far better than the 500,000 that economists had expected.

And the University of Michigan's final report on consumer sentiment for November was revised up to 67.4 from a preliminary reading of 66, but is still below the October reading of 70.6.

On the corporate front, Canadian National Railway Co. (TSX:CNR) says its locomotive engineers have told the company they'll go on strike early Saturday if they don't reach a contract deal. CN said on Monday that it will impose a wage increase and change the mileage caps for the engineers after talks failed to reach a settlement. CN shares slipped three cents to $56.32.

Farm equipment maker Deere and Co. says big charges and lower sales of farm and construction equipment amid the economic downturn left it with a US$223-million loss for the fourth quarter. Deere says worldwide revenue dropped 28 per cent to US$5.33 billion. Its shares recovered from early losses to move up $1.41 to US$53.70.

QLT Inc. (TSX:QLT) has agreed to pay US$20 million to settle a legal dispute with Massachusetts General Hospital, which had been seeking higher royalty payments from the sale of the Visudyne treatment for age-related blindness. In return for QLT's payment, the Boston-based hospital has agreed to dismiss its claims against the Vancouver-based drug developer. QLT shares ran up 74 cents or 18.59 per cent to $4.72.

U.S. markets are closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.