*TSX closes down 14.17 points at 12,368.65
*Ends up almost 4 pct on month, near 10 pct on quarter (Updates to close)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index closed slightly lower on Thursday, weighed down by weak gold shares and profit-taking on the last day of a strong quarter and an unusually solid September.
The TSX index ended September, historically the worst-performing month of the year, up almost 4 percent, and finished the third quarter up nearly 10 percent. On the year, it has risen more than 5 percent.
"If you were buying earlier this month, you've done pretty well so maybe you say all right, let's actually lock in some profits because it has been a very up and down year," said Gavin Graham, president of Graham Investment Strategy.
The market was volatile throughout the day, but produced little direction as investors digested a mixed bag of economic data and commodity prices.
Among the key gainers, energy shares advanced 1.1 percent. In the group, Suncor Energy (SU.TO) rose 0.9 percent to C$33.50.
Decliners were led by heavy losses for gold miners, down 1.7 percent. Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO), the world's No. 1 producer, tumbled 2.1 percent to C$47.55.
Barrick was also seen affected by the Argentine Senate's passage of a law that would curb mining on the nation's glaciers. Analysts say the law could make it more expensive for Barrick to develop its huge Pascua Lama site high in the Andes. [ID: nN30287719]
"If you look at what's been up quite strongly it's things like the resources, but today, apart from a couple dollars in the oil price, that's not enough to move things," Graham said.
Oil prices rose to near $80 a barrel on Thursday on better news for the U.S. economy, but copper softened and gold backed off recent record highs. [O/R] [MET/L] [GOL/]
John Kinsey, a portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities, said investors need to see the gold price stay above $1,300 an ounce if they are going to push TSX gold stocks higher.
"I think we really need to get the commodity up above $1,300 by a reasonable amount of $15 or more, and then I think all the gold stocks will finally become something that people will want to own."
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE ended Thursday down 14.17 points, or 0.1 percent, at 12,368.65, with five of its 10 main sectors lower, including materials, down 1.6 percent. Financial shares were up 0.2 percent. On Wednesday, the index rallied to its best level in two years.
Supporting the market was U.S. data that showed new claims for jobless aid fell last week, while manufacturing in the Midwest grew faster than expected in September. In Canada, data showed the economy contracted for the first time in a year in July. [ID:nN30285244] [ID:nN30434455]
($1=$1.03 Canadian) (Reporting by Claire Sibonney; editing by Peter Galloway)