TORONTO -- Canada's main stock index closed marginally higher Thursday as gold prices rose further as a shield against ongoing trade and macroeconomic uncertainty.

The Toronto exchange opened higher in morning trading but pared the gains and underperformed U.S. market which rose more strongly on positive trade signals, says Candice Bangsund, portfolio manager for Fiera Capital.

A published report said U.S. President Donald Trump may delay imposing tariffs on Mexico in order to negotiate immigration issues.

"Investors continue to digest a flurry of headlines on the trade front and are in search of clarity as to whether President Trump will make good on his threat to place a five per cent tariff on Mexican goods (which are set to go into effect on Monday)," she wrote in an email.

Trump also said he'll hold off on tariffs on a further US$325 billion of Chinese imports until after the G20 Summit at the end of June, but added he could impose them if necessary.

"The latest escalation in the global trade debacle has brought into question the health of the global economy and boosted speculation for increased stimulus from global central banks," Bangsund added.

The S&P/TSX composite index was up 15.14 points at 16,227.80 after hitting an intraday high of 16,241.58.

Seven of the 11 major sectors were higher on the day, led by technology and energy.

The key energy sector was helped with Cenovus Energy Inc. and Encana Corp. leading as crude oil prices rebounded a day after falling to the lowest level in nearly five months.

"After breaching official bear market territory on Wednesday owing to a deteriorating global demand outlook and a jump in U.S. stockpiles, crude stabilized today and looks to be in search for a bottom after such a profound selloff over the last several days," Bangsund added.

The July crude contract was up 91 cents US at US$52.59 per barrel on hopes that OPEC and its allies will extend their production curbs beyond June, she said. The July natural gas contract was down 5.4 cents at US$2.32 per mmBTU.

Barrick Gold Corp. was up 3.2 per cent to push materials higher as gold rose for a seventh consecutive day and hit its highest level since Feb. 20.

The August gold contract was up US$9.10 at US$1,342.70 an ounce and the July copper contract was up 2.75 cents at US$2.65 a pound.

The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 74.75 cents US compared with an average of 74.62 cents US on Wednesday.

Consumer staples led on the downside with Saputo shares falling 6.6 per cent after missing expectations in the fourth quarter. It was followed by health care, consumer discretionary and industrials.

Industrials was hit by shares of Bombardier Inc. falling more than four per cent after gaining nearly 10 per cent Wednesday on confirmation that it is negotiating the sale of its remaining commercial aircraft operations.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 181.09 points at 25,720.66. The S&P 500 index was up 17.34 points at 2,843.49, while the Nasdaq composite was up 40.08 points at 7,615.55.