TSX steady as U.S. shutdown hits energy, boosts gold

By John Tilak

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was little changed on Wednesday as a U.S. government shutdown hit the energy and financial sectors, but boosted the bullion price and gold-mining stocks.

A day after The Democratic-led U.S. Senate voted to kill Republicans' latest attempts to modify an emergency government funding bill, hopes the debt crisis would be resolved soon began to dwindle.

The uncertainty spurred a jump in gold, which is seen as a safe-haven asset, as investors placed bets on the commodity. Gold stocks gained as a result.

"The market continues to say: ‘This is a temporary blip, don't get too distracted by it, but drive on, '" said Robert McWhirter, president and portfolio manager at Selective Asset Management Inc.

Investors will start to panic only if the shutdown extends beyond a few weeks, he added.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index <.GSPTSE> closed down 8.44 points, or 0.07 percent, at 12,839.

Five of the 10 main sectors on the index were in the red.

The financial group fell 0.4 percent. Royal Bank of Canada , the country's biggest lender, dropped 0.5 percent to C$66.35. Toronto Dominion Bank gave back 0.3 percent to C$92.04.

Energy shares shed 0.8 percent, with Canadian Natural Resources Ltd falling 1.8 percent to C$32.23 and having the biggest negative influence on the market. Suncor Energy Inc lost almost 1 percent to C$36.81.

But the rise in gold stocks pushed the materials sector, which includes mining shares, up 1.3 percent.

Barrick Gold Corp rose 2.3 percent to C$19.02 and Goldcorp Inc added 1 percent to C$26.31.

(Editing by Chris Reese)

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