* TSX little changed after rising 1 pct, falling 1 pct
* Hits lowest point in 5 years on downswing
* Materials sector biggest drag, down 4 pct on weaker gold (Adds details)
TORONTO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index was little changed on Tuesday morning after swinging sharply higher and then lower, with the main pressure to the downside coming from weaker gold prices, which pulled down the materials sector by 4.1 percent.
Counterbalancing weaker gold was bargain-hunting after Monday’s 300-point drop in Toronto’s TSX index to its lowest closing level in more than five years, and Monday’s drop in U.S. stock markets to a 12-year low.
The TSX rose more than 1 percent at the start of the session on Tuesday, but turned negative shortly after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned that the U.S. recession may not end this year as he delivered the Fed’s semiannual monetary policy report.
That helped push the index down more than 1 percent to its lowest level since October 2003.
Market players may look south of the border for further guidance on the economy with addresses expected from U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday.
“I don’t think that this market will turn on the upside unless something really phenomenally comes out much better than people expect from the speech from the president tonight and Geithner tomorrow,” said Sal Masionis, a stockbroker at Brant Securities.
“Until the banking system and the real estate stabilizes, this market is very, very unstable.”
At 10:50 a.m. (1550 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was down 0.39 points at 7,647.28.
A positive tone in the price of oil lent support to the energy group, which dropped 5 percent in the previous session.
Banks were also major advancers, rising more than 1 percent, in a week where some of the country’s biggest banks will report quarterly results. The heavily weighted financial group was up 0.85 percent.
$1=$1.25 Canadian Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; Editing by Peter Galloway