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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index dropped to its lowest point in a week on Thursday as gold-mining shares tracked a dive in bullion prices on market fears the U.S. Federal Reserve will announce a pullback of stimulus measures at its meeting next week.
Bullion, seen a safe-haven asset, shed 3 percent after gaining sharply in recent weeks on news of escalating tension in Syria. Gold prices fell as the Fed meeting neared and as investors watched Russia and the United States try to hash out a deal to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons and prevent military strikes.
The price of silver tumbled 5.4 percent. <GOL/>
Gold-mining shares recorded the biggest single-day percentage fall in more than three months. They are down 42 percent so far this year.
"They have had a terrible ride," said Barry Schwartz, vice president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services. "The problem is I can't figure out what the price of gold is going to be a year from now. Nobody can."
"It's a cyclical trading investment, and right now it's going to be out of favor," he added.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 124.37 points, or 0.97 percent, at 12,701.05, after dropping as low as 12,693.86, its lowest level since September 4.
All of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red.
"The factors that had inspired the big rally in gold and silver a couple of weeks ago are unraveling," said Colin Cieszynski, senior market analyst at CMC Markets Canada.
"Traders are still confused about what's going to go on, particularly with (Fed) tapering and the situation in Syria," he added. "People aren't completely sure about which way to go."
The Toronto index's materials sector, which includes mining stocks, declined 3.5 percent. Gold producers lost 5.2 percent.
Silver Wheaton Corp SLW.TO declined 5.2 percent to C$24.83.
Financials, the index's most heavily weighted sector, gave back 0.6 percent. In the group, Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) was down 0.7 percent at C$65.74.
Shares of telecoms providers stumbled 1.5 percent on a report that three big foreign operators might be considering bidding in an upcoming spectrum auction. Rogers Communications (RCIb.TO) declined 1.2 percent to C$42.95, and BCE Inc (BCE.TO) slipped 1.7 percent to C$43.49.
Editing by Nick Zieminski; and Peter Galloway