(Adds portfolio manager comment, details from early trade)
* TSX falls 171.72 points, or 1.22 percent, to 13,959.66
* Eight of the TSX's 10 main groups down
* Material group up 2.5 pct as gold miners surge
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, June 24 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index fell more than 1 percent on Friday after Britain voted to leave the European Union, a more muted retreat than in Europe and the United States as gold miners benefited from investors fleeing to the safety of bullion.
The heavyweight financials group lost 2.3 percent, with Royal Bank of Canada down 2.4 percent at C$77.80 and Manulife Financial Corp slumping 5.4 percent to C$17.73.
The blow to investor confidence and the uncertainty unleashed by the Brexit vote could keep the U.S. Federal Reserve from raising interest rates as planned this year, and even spark a new round of emergency policy easing from major central banks.
Gold miners surged, accounting for nine of the index's 10 most influential gains, as investors piled into bullion, considered a lower risk asset to hold in uncertain times.
Barrick Gold Corp jumped 5.4 percent to C$26.02, Goldcorp Inc advanced 5.1 percent to C$23.61, and gold miners accounted for nine of the 10 most influential gains on the index.
At 10:40 a.m. EDT (1440 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was down 171.72 points, or 1.22 percent, to 13,959.66. Eight of its 10 main sectors fell, with three decliners for every gainer.
That compared with a 5 percent fall in a pan-European index and greater than 2 percent retreats on U.S. exchanges.
"A lot of what's occurring here is still very much focused in the eurozone, we don't think this dramatically changes the outcome for North America," said Stephen Carlin, head of equities and portfolio manager at CIBC Asset Management.
Carlin said CIBC funds had broadly added gold exposure as a hedge against the risk of British referendum, but that further upside for the precious metal was likely limited.
"As the price of gold moves up here, we're probably more inclined to take money off the table," he said.
Gold soared as much as 8 percent to its highest in more than two years after the vote, while in sterling and euro terms it jumped even more as both currencies sunk.
The TSX's materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, added 2.3 percent.
Utilities recorded a 0.4 percent gain.
CIBC's Carlin said that with the Fed and other central banks likely to keep interest rates on hold, he likes high-yielding pipeline, telecom, utility and real estate stocks. (Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Alan Crosby)