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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main equity index lost ground on Thursday as investors fretted over troubles in Europe, slowing growth in China and as hopes for swift stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve faded.
The commodity-rich index was hit by losses across a string of sectors, with some investors suggesting that the country's image as a safe haven amid global tumult was weakening.
"Canada's had its day in the sun," said Sadiq Adatia, the chief investment officer of Sun Life Global Investments Canada. He said U.S. stocks offered more promise as that country's housing market had bottomed and its consumers have paid down their debt.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE unofficially closed down 56.48 points, or 0.47 percent, at 12,062.51.
The TSX has underperformed the broad S&P 500 .SPX U.S. index so far this year after several years of outsized gains on the back of a commodity price boom.
But gold miners limited the damage as they continue to climb out of a trough.
"It's a good environment for gold, particularly if you are negative on what is going to happen in September and October," said David Cockfield, managing director and portfolio manager at Northland Wealth Management, referring specifically to a looming decision about Greece's place in the European Union.
"People really don't know what happens if Greece is pushed out the door. We've got to get past this hurdle."
The price of bullion rose to a four-month high. <GOL/> Toronto's gold mining sub-sector has gained 11 percent in the past month, but is still down almost 13 percent since the start of 2012.
A Federal Reserve official leaned against the impression that the U.S. central bank was locked into easing monetary policy, noting that economic data had improved since an August meeting showed strong support for more action.
The commodity-rich Canadian market is sensitive to signs of slowing growth in China, whose manufacturing sector contracted at its sharpest pace in nine months in August, according to a survey showing falling export orders and rising inventories.
The data was seen as a signal that more policy stimulus may be needed to engineer a second half pickup in growth.
Advantage Oil & Gas Ltd (AAV.TO) jumped 12.8 percent to C$3.69 after the company said it was looking to sell a string of oil and gas reserves to focus on its Glacier Montney natural gas asset and its stake in Longview Oil Corp LNV.TO.
Telecom company Telus (T.TO) was also among the top gainers, pushing 0.9 percent higher. The company is girding for a battle with its largest investor over a plan to unify its dual-share structure.
Editing by Dave Zimmerman and Phil Berlowitz