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TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index ended lower for a second straight session on Wednesday, pulled down in a broad selloff that was led by the energy group, while firm golds offset a portion the losses.
Nine of the index's 10 main groups were lower, with the oil and gas group the top laggard, down 1.47 percent. The price of crude oil, an important Canadian export, broke a six-day rising streak to settle below $86 a barrel, prompting profit-taking.
Shares of Suncor Energy Inc, Canada's largest oil company, lost 1.65 percent, while EnCana Corp fell 1.86 percent to C$32.25.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index closed down 45.81 points, or 0.38 percent, at 12,110.90. At the start of the week, the index hit 12,203.39, its highest level since September 2008.
"The market has come such a long way and we're really just going through a pause and digestion phase right now," said Peter Chandler, senior vice-president at Canaccord Wealth Management in Waterloo, Ontario.
Investors may also have been mulling the impact of a firmer Canadian dollar, which touched parity with the U.S. dollar for the second time this week before slipping again.
After a dismal start to the year, the main Toronto index has steadily gained on a combination of better economic conditions in Canada and higher commodity prices. The index is up around 10 percent from its 2010 low point in February.
The trend might continue as optimism among Canadian investors rose sharply in the latest quarter, according to a survey by Manulife Financial released on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, data showed recovery was taking a tighter grip as purchasing activity jumped more than expected in March and building intentions were near a 2007 peak despite cooling slightly in February.
On Wednesday, the heavyweight financial group was also an index weak spot, retreating 0.72 percent, with Royal Bank of Canada, the country's biggest lender, falling 1.04 percent to C$58.84. Toronto-Dominion Bank dropped 1.08 percent to C$73.41.
"Canadian financials look like they've peaked in the short term," said Barry Schwartz, vice-president and portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services.
"It's a directionless market, we're waiting for first quarter earnings and seeing how they play out."
On the upside, gold miners were supported by the price of the precious metal, which rose above $1,150 an ounce, its highest level in nearly three months. This helped boost the materials group 1.52 percent, the index's lone rising sector.
"That's why the loss on the market is as contained as it is," Chandler said.
Barrick Gold gained 3.65 percent to C$40.88, while Goldcorp advanced 4.65 percent to C$40.06.
Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Peter Galloway