NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Investor optimism, international interest and domestic policies gave a powerful boost to key stock exchanges in the Americas Thursday, and nowhere moreso than in Mexico, where the bolsa hit an all-time closing high.
Shares on Canada's Toronto Stock Exchange, however, took the opposite route, led lower by heavily weighted financial services stocks.
Mexican equities soared to a record close amid optimism over the banking sector and as investors welcomed remarks by U.S. Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan suggesting the worst of the Asian crisis was over, traders said
By the end of trade, the IPC index had climbed 241.84 points, or 4.35 percent, to 5,802.47.
Banking shares put in a particularly strong performance on the back of congressional approval of a bank deposit guarantee agency known as IPAB.
Shares in Brazil continued their northward climb, helped in part by an easing of investor fears over a probe into an alleged currency scandal.
Near the end of trade the Bovespa index was up 326 points, or 2.82 percent, at 11,905.
Testimony by a left-wing lawmaker late Wednesday helped allay the market's concerns over purported insider trading on the foreign exchange market when the country devalued its currency in January.
Aloizio Mercadante told a Senate panel he had no evidence to support his charges that the central bank warned some banks in advance of its decision to allow the real to devalue, allowing them to make big profits.
On Wednesday, the Bovespa jumped 2.75 percent as international investor interest surged and the market sensed the worst of the scandal had passed, traders said.
Though local traders have been flipping between caution and confidence in regard to the Senate investigation, overall the Bovespa has not been significantly hurt by their fears. It has risen 2 percent in May and 70.7 percent year-to-date in local currency terms.
In currency trading, the real on Thursday ended trade firmer at 1.678 against the U.S. dollar.
Stocks in Venezuela rallied strongly as international buyers continued to be drawn to the bolsa by President Hugo Chavez's economic reforms, traders said.
Investors also purchased stocks ahead of a pending 0.5 percent securities tax due to be imposed in mid-May.
The key IBC index closed up 229.05 points, or 4.04 percent, at 5897.23.
On Wednesday, Venezuela's cabinet of ministers approved a value-added tax of 15.5 percent effective from June 1, part of a package of economic and fiscal reforms pushed through by President Hugo Chavez under emergency powers granted by Congress in late April.
On other bolsas in the Americas, stocks also made solid gains. In Argentina, the Merval index closed higher by 1.09 percent at 604.10, while in Peru, the Lima General Index rose 2.38 percent to 1,714.18, and in Chile, shares on the IGPA index were trading up 0.33 percent at 4,456.27 by late afternoon. Equities in Colombia, however, were felled by profit seekers, who sent the IBB index down 2.79 percent to close at 1,154.07.
Toronto stocks ended mixed Thursday, helped by precious metals stocks but not enough to counter the downward pull of financial services stocks, among others.
The Toronto Stock Exchange 300 Composite index finished lower by 34.32 points, or 0.49 percent, at 6,989.30.
About half of the exchange's 14 subindexes posted losses, led by a 2.01 percent drop in financial stocks and a 0.98 percent decline in industrial products, which include Internet stocks.
Lending support to the TSE 300 were the gold and precious metals group, which jumped 3.27 percent, and conglomerates, which climbed 1.40 percent.
-- from staff and wire reports