TORONTO -- The Toronto stock market closed higher amid better than expected trade data from China.

The S&P/TSX composite index gained 45.31 points to 12,801.23, amid official data showing that Chinese exports rose 25 per cent in January from a year earlier, while imports soared 28 per cent.

But the Canadian dollar was lower on disappointments in Canadian job creation and housing starts. It skidded 0.47 of a cent to 99.73 cents US as the economy shed 21,900 jobs last month. Economists had looked for a gain of about 5,000.

And housing starts plunged to 160,600 in January, down considerably from a revised 197,100 reading in December. Economists had looked for starts to come in at 195,000.

The Dow Jones industrials also benefited from a strong U.S. trade report and gained 48.92 points to 13,992.97. The Nasdaq was up 28.74 points at 3,193.87 while the S&P 500 index rose 8.54 points to a fresh, five year high of 1,517.93.