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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index ended slightly higher on Wednesday, as nagging worries over fallout from the credit crunch offset strong resource issues, as oil surged to a record high.
The energy sector, which makes up about 30 percent of the index, kept the TSX above the break-even mark as crude settled up $2.37 at $110.87 a barrel, after earlier jumping as high as $112.21, on news of a sharp drop in U.S. inventories.
Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) provided the biggest lift as it rose C$3.09, or 4.1 percent, to C$78.12. Canadian Oil Sands Trust COS_u.TO was up C$1.85, or 4.4 percent, at C$43.75 and the whole sector gained 2.2 percent.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed up 23.02 points, or 0.17 percent, at 13,750.55, but only four of its 10 main sectors moved higher.
The benchmark remained range-bound for much of the day, stung by weak financials, with economic worries dragging the sector down 1.2 percent.
"The main credit problem is still with us, the housing problem is still with us, the question of whether or not the U.S. is in recession is still with us," said John Kinsey, portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities Ltd.
"Today it seems people are still worried about these problems and that has affected the financials."
Shares of investment dealer Canaccord Capital CCI.TO rallied 93 Canadian cents, or 9 percent, to C$11.28 after it said it will repurchase most of its clients' frozen asset-backed commercial paper at par value, provided the overhaul of the Canadian nonbank ABCP market is successful.
Bay Street also won support from an upswing by gold producers, with Agnico-Eagle Mines (AEM.TO) adding C$2.84, or 4.1 percent, to C$72.20 and Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) rising C$1.36, or 3.1 percent, to C$44.96.
The price of bullion strengthened to over $930, following oil's momentum, and helped Toronto's gold producer subindex rise 2.5 percent.
Canadian National Railway (CNR.TO) was among the biggest weighted decliners, giving up C$2.05, or 4 percent, to C$49.50, while the industrials sector was down 2.1 percent
On the acquisition front, Baytex Energy Trust BTE_u.TO said it has agreed to acquire Burmis Energy BME.TO in an all-paper offer worth about C$152 million.
The announcement sent shares of tiny Burmis up 24 Canadian cents, or 7.5 percent, to C$3.46, while Baytex slid 42 Canadian cents, or 1.8 percent, at C$23.52.
The Toronto market has rallied in recent weeks, but has ended little changed in the past two sessions as investors pocketed some profits, while jitters over prospects for the global economy have re-emerged.
Sal Masionis, stockbroker at Brant Securities, said that Tuesday's report from the International Monetary Fund forecasting $945 billion in losses and writedowns related to problems in credit markets continued to "put a tone to the market that's quite negative."
Market volume was 372 million shares worth C$6.5 billion. Advancers outpaced decliners 788 to 772. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed up 2.04 points, or 0.25 percent, at 810.16.
On Wall Street, stocks declined amid worries over the outlook for quarterly earnings. The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI ended down 49.18 points, or 0.39 percent, at 12,527.26, and the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC slipped 26.64 points, or 1.13 percent, to 2,322.12.
Editing by Rob Wilson