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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index eked out a slight gain on Wednesday, with a rise in financial and materials stocks offsetting a decline in Suncor Energy Inc (SU.TO) after it reported unexpectedly weak results.
The financial sector, the index's largest, gained 0.4 percent. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) added 1 percent to C$62.67 and played the biggest role in leading the market higher. Bank of Montreal (BMO.TO) advanced 0.8 percent to C$62.96 as bank shares led the Canadian market's push to catch up with gains made elsewhere this year and last.
"Canada overall has lagged the world and this is one of the areas that investors might be finding some pockets of value," said Philip Petursson, a managing director of the portfolio advisory group at Manulife Asset Management.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's benchmark S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 4 percent in 2012, while the S&P 500 gained 13.4 percent. The S&P also hit a five-year high this week, rising around 6 percent since year-end, while the TSX has edged up around 3 percent.
"Since the beginning of the year, the money flow into equities has been triple the money flow into the bond market," said Sal Masionis, stockbroker at Brant Securities.
"That money has to go somewhere. And obviously in Canada it's going into financials," he added.
Financial stocks, which rose more than 12 percent in 2012, are up 3.4 percent since the start of the year.
The S&P/TSX composite .GSPTSE ended up 15.94 points, or 0.13 percent, at 12,761.59. Eight of the 10 main sectors on the index were trading higher.
The TSX outperformed U.S. indexes on Wednesday as investors, without any major economic reports to guide them, awaited fresh incentives to trade. .N
The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, gained 0.2 percent.
Energy shares slipped 0.8 percent. Suncor, Canada's largest oil producer, gave back 5.4 percent to C$32.53 and was the biggest drag on the market.
Late on Tuesday Suncor reported a fourth-quarter loss as it wrote down the value of its Voyageur oil sands upgrading project in northern Alberta just weeks before it is due to make a final decision on whether to build the facility.
"You've got costs that are rising and you've got this differential in terms of what they're able to receive for their oil versus (West Texas Intermediate)," Manulife's Petursson said. "So the results aren't a surprise to me. And I think we may see more of the same from some of the other larger producers."
Weak oil prices further weighed on the sector. <O/R> Oil producer Canadian Natural Resources Ltd (CNQ.TO) was down 0.4 percent to C$30.13.
TMX Group (X.TO) rose 2.3 percent to C$56.73 after reporting better-than-expected profit for the first full quarter since a group of Canadian financial institutions took control of the owner of the Toronto Stock Exchange.
With additional reporting by John Tilak; Editing by Peter Galloway