* U.S. crude falls 3.5 pct
* Gold price weakens
* Market to close at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT)
TORONTO, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index was lower on Wednesday morning as weak gold and energy prices dimmed hopes for a yearend rally.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 24.07 points, or 0.3 percent, at 8.287.84. The market was set to close at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Wednesday ahead of Christmas Day.
Energy issues, which were off 1.4 percent, led the way down as the price for U.S. crude oil fell 3.5 percent to under the $38 a barrel mark.
Among heavyweight energy shares falling were Canadian Natural Resources CNQ.TO, which was off 2.8 percent at C$42.80, and EnCana Corp ECA.TO, which was down 2.5 percent at C$50.77.
“There’s not going to be a Christmas rally, which is what everybody was hoping for and part of the reason up here is that oil remains a heavy drag on our market,” said John Ing, president at Maison Placements Canada.
The Canadian equity market often rises around this time of year as investors anticipate an injection of additional funds into the market in early January and fund managers dress up their portfolios before the end of the year.
But a bevy of factors including falling consumer confidence, tight credit, a bleak economic outlook and falling commodity prices have dimmed hopes for the kind of rally that has been seen in nine of the past 10 years.
Gold-mining shares were weaker, falling 1.1 percent, as the price for the precious metal edged lower to settle around $838.55 an ounce. Barrick Gold ABX.TO, the world’s biggest producer, was off 0.5 percent at C$41.11, and Goldcorp Inc G.TO dropped 1.9 percent to C$34.69.
The utilities group, which gained 0.6 percent and the industrial group, which rose 1 percent, helped offset the losses.
Canadian Pacific Railway CP.TO added 1.7 percent to C$38.95, and Canadian National Railway CNR.TO rose 1.1 percent to C$42.19 as the falling oil price made it less expensive for the railways to operate.
$1=$1.22 Canadian Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Peter Galloway