TSX tips lower as Brexit vote eyed; energy stocks weigh

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada’s benchmark stock index edged slightly lower on Wednesday, with energy stocks weighing as oil fell with a smaller-than-expected U.S. inventory drawdown and gold miners rose a day before Britain votes on its future in the European Union.

A man walks past an old Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) sign in Toronto, June 23, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE touched a one-week high during the session, but slipped back after the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.

The index, which has a heavy energy component, ended down 8.51 points, or 0.06 percent, at 14,003.81. Seven of its ten main industry sectors closed lower.

Gold miners were among the most influential gainers, even as bullion retreated.

Most of the rest of the index was subdued as investors paused ahead of Britain’s Thursday vote on whether to remain in or leave the European Union. Polls suggest the outcome is too close to call.

“Oils were down and the golds were a little bit better, but overall everyone was treading water,” said John Ing, president of Maison Placements Canada. “That’ll probably happen tomorrow too, until we find out what happened on Friday morning.”

“When in doubt, stay out” of the market, Ing said.

Energy stocks fell 1.5 percent overall, including a 2 percent drop in Canadian Natural Resources Ltd CNQ.TO to C$38.88 and a 3 percent fall for Cenovus Energy Inc CVE.TO, to C$18.21.

The weakness in energy stocks also came after Alberta’s energy regulator toughened rules determining if companies are financially strong enough to buy oil and gas assets, a move some energy industry players warned on Tuesday could hamper mergers and acquisition in the province.

The materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, gained 1.3 percent.

None of the eight other key sectors on the index moved more than 0.75 percent in either direction.

Canadian retail sales in April rose by 0.9 percent from March to hit a record C$44.28 billion ($34.59 billion), thanks largely to higher sales at gasoline stations, Statistics Canada said.

Additional reporting by Fergal Smith, editing by G Crosse