* TSX ends down 17.26 points, or 0.14 percent, at 12,479.70
* Touches two week high earlier in day at 12,561.75
* Material issues weigh as Potash Corp, gold equities fall
* Energy issues up slightly on $125/barrel oil
By Julie Gordon
TORONTO, March 19 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index closed lower on Monday after a day of choppy trade as gains in energy issues were undercut by losses among gold miners and fertilizer producer Potash Corp.
The gold price rose on Monday after falling sharply last week, but equity investors were wary as technical factors suggested the precious metal could tumble further.
World No.1 gold producer, Barrick Gold, closed down 1.17 percent to C$43.11, while Eldorado Gold fell 2.83 percent to C$13.07 and Goldcorp slid 0.69 percent to C$43.38.
“In Canada, the gold sector has been a drag on the overall market,” said Fergal Smith, managing market strategist at Action Economics. “So the rally on the TSX has tended to lag the rally on Wall Street.”
Also weighing on the index was data showing that U.S. homebuilder sentiment was unchanged in March, disappointing expectations for a small rise, and Canadian wholesale trade slumped in January.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed down 17.26 points, or 0.14 percent, at 12,479.70. Earlier in the day it touched a two-week high at 12,561.75.
Five of the TSX’s 10 main sectors were lower, dragged down by the materials issues, which slid 0.85 percent.
The biggest drag came from Potash Corp, which ended down 1.63 percent at C$44.66, after U.S. wheat, corn and soybean futures all fell on the day. Shares of the world’s largest fertilizer maker typically closely track movements in grain prices, as these tend to impact farmer sentiment.
Canadian financial shares were down 0.04 percent, led by Manulife Financials, which fell 0.8 percent to C$13.60.
Shares of TransCanada Corporation fell 1.69 percent to C$43.05 after a cleaning tool disconnected within the company’s controversial Keystone Pipeline.
Other energy-related equities rose, led by Suncor Energy up 1.64 percent at C$33.46, as Brent crude oil traded around $125. Canadian Natural Resources rose 1.31 percent to C$35.50 and Encana Corp climbed 2.61 percent to C$20.87.
In company news, shares of Viterra, Canada’s biggest grain handler, closed down 1.48 percent at C$15.97 as hopes of a bidding war faded after the company said it was in exclusive talks with a prospective buyer.