*Delays over enacting a package raise anxiety
*Energy stocks sag as oil prices weaken
*Gold shares gain along with bullion (Adds details, quotes)
By Leah Schnurr
TORONTO, Sept 24 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange’s main index ended slightly lower on Wednesday, plagued by uncertainty over the U.S. bailout plan.
The proposed $700 billion bailout plan in the United States remained front and center of investors’ minds as Congress debated the measures that would see the U.S. government buy up soured mortgage debt from financial institutions. For details, see: [ID:nNHKG43245].
Anxiety over when and if the proposal will pass added to choppy activity during the session, while the energy sector was dampened by soft oil prices. In the oil patch, Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) slid 2.2 percent to C$82.15.
“If this thing came out and was passed today, I think the market would take off,” said Rick Hutcheon, president and chief operating officer at RKH Investments, of the U.S. bailout.
“But the market is getting worried that something is going to happen to derail this thing, or that it’s going to take so long that it’s going to be ineffective by the time it actually gets (passed),” Hutcheon added.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE closed down 19.27 points, or 0.15 percent, at 12,513.36 with seven of its 10 main sectors down. The index had jumped just over 130 points earlier in the day.
The materials sector gave back some of the morning’s gains, but held onto a 0.8 percent advance, as gold producers were lifted by a modest gain in gold. U.S. gold futures settled up $3.80 at $895.00 an ounce, while in Toronto, Barrick Gold (ABX.TO) rose 3 percent to C$39.95.
Elsewhere in the materials sector, Teck Cominco TCKb.TO fell 2.1 percent to C$34.79, while the heavyweight energy sector gave up 0.6 percent as oil fell on worries over demand. Imperial Oil (IMO.TO) fell 1.4 percent to C$45.35.
Concern over the outcome of the bailout debate also helped take luster off optimism in the morning that was sparked by Warren Buffett’s $5 billion investment in Goldman Sachs (GS.N).
“It’s something the markets would love to react to but can’t because they’re fixated on these other issues,” he said.
Market volume was 429 million shares worth C$7.9 billion. Decliners outpaced advancers 837 to 692. The blue chip S&P/TSX 60 index .TSE60 closed down 0.67 points, or 0.09 percent, at 751.65.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI edged down 29.00 points, or 0.27 percent, at 10,825.17 on concerns surrounding the bailout.
But the Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC eked out a gain of 2.35 points, or 0.11 percent, to 2,155.68 on hopes of increased spending in the tech sector.
$1=$1.04 Canadian Editing by Peter Galloway