*TSX falls 23.31 points to 12,147.26
*Five of 10 sectors down (Updates to close)
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock ended lower on Wednesday, after hovering near the unchanged mark for much of the day, as financial shares weakened and lower oil prices pulled down energy issues, undermining an early rally led by gold and base-metal miners.
Economically sensitive financials fell 1.1 percent in reaction to some bearish economic data and Tuesday's statement by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Manulife Financial MFC.TO shed 4.6 percent to C$12.79 and Toronto-Dominion Bank TD.TO dropped 1.4 percent to C$74.22.
The Fed hinted on Tuesday that it may embark on a new round of monetary stimulus, which unsettled some investors who had become more optimistic about the economy's prospects and had pushed up North American stocks to the highest levels since the spring.
Also, Canadian bank executives said on Wednesday that growth in their retail networks could be stunted by a cooling housing market and falling consumer loans. [ID:nN22105411]
Data showed a slide in Canadian retail sales in July, and U.S. figures further illustrated a beleaguered housing market south of the border. [ID:nN22229778] [ID:nN22266559]
Energy shares were down 0.9 percent as oil prices fell after U.S. government inventory data showed a rise in crude and oil product stocks. [O/R]
Suncor Energy SU.TO lost 1.5 percent to C$32.35, and Canadian Natural Resources CNQ.TO fell 2.1 percent to C$33.47.
The index's materials sector, however, rose more than 1 percent, boosted by another record day for gold prices and a five-month high for copper prices as the greenback slid after the U.S. Federal Reserve raised expectations of more monetary-policy easing. [GOL/] [MET/L]
Big names on the upside included Barrick Gold Corp ABX.TO, the world's No. 1 gold producer, up 1.3 percent at C$48.66, and Teck Resources TCKb.TO, which rose 2.3 percent to C$39.91.
"Half the people see the market doing well, and so they want to be there, and the other half are confused," said Ron Meisels, technical analyst and president of Phases & Cycles in Montreal.
He said September has often been the worst performing month for stocks on the TSX, but the past few weeks have so far defied that trend.
Since late August, the TSX is up about 6 percent.
"To date in September we have had a fantastic month. The question then, of course, is is this an aberration, are we going to suddenly collapse in last 10 days of September?" Meisels said he doubts that will happen.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 23.31 points, or 0.2 percent, at 12,147.26. Half of its 10 sectors were weaker.
Meisels said the 12,000 figure represents a significant psychological and technical support level, near the 21-day moving average and the point of its most recent correction. He said 12,300, near the year high reached in April still stands as a level of key resistance.
In individual company news, Research In Motion RIM.TO gained 1.5 percent to C$49.00 following a Wall Street Journal report that the BlackBerry maker may use a developers' conference next week to announce plans for a tablet computer to compete with Apple and Amazon. [ID:nN21183657]
Potash Corp POT.TO, up 0.5 percent at C$151.29, was in the spotlight again after it filed a lawsuit against BHP Billiton BHP.AX BLT.L that seeks to block the mining giant's $39 billion hostile takeover bid for the Canadian fertilizer producer. [ID:nN22227579]
Sprott Inc SII.TO SII.TO soared almost 9 percent to C$4.90 after the fund manager said it has entered into an all-stock deal to acquire three U.S.-based resource investment companies as it drives to expand its brand. [ID:nSGE68L0I5]
($1=$1.03 Canadian) (Editing by Peter Galloway)