CANADA STOCKS-Gold miners nudge TSX higher, but energy stocks weigh

TORONTO, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index touched its highest level in nearly three weeks on Wednesday, as rising shares of gold miners offset a drop in oil prices that weighed on the energy sector.

Gold stocks rose more than 3 percent even as gold prices languished near three-week lows.

“The golds had bottomed this month,” said John Ing, president of Maison Placements. “Looking ahead into next year, when the oil bubble has burst, the iron ore bubble has burst, the Dow is at 18,000 and there is some talk that the stock market bubble will burst, and when that happens, of course, gold lifts.”

Goldcorp Inc, up nearly 3 percent at C$20.57, played the biggest role of any single stock in leading the market higher. Franco-Nevada Corp also climbed nearly 3 percent to C$56.11.

“They’ve been beaten up, so this is maybe just a little bit of a catch-up before year-end,” John Kinsey, portfolio manager at Caldwell Securities, said of gold stocks.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed up 13.28 points, or 0.09 percent, at 14,607.31. The index at one point hit 14,645.07, its highest level since Dec. 4

The energy sector fell 0.9 percent. In the group, Suncor Energy Inc declined 1.3 percent to C$37.31 and Canadian Natural Resources dropped 0.7 percent to C$36.49.

Oil slid in thin trade as U.S. crude inventories data added to worries about a supply glut.

“The oil stocks are reacting, as would be expected,” said Caldwell’s Kinsey. “They’ve had a little bit of a rally on oil, but now that it’s down again today they’re all following it.”

Canadian equity markets closed early, shutting at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) ahead of the Christmas holidays. Because of Canada’s Boxing Day holiday on Friday, they will not reopen until Monday.

$1=$1.16 Canadian With additional reporting by Alastair Sharp and Jeffrey Hodgson; Editing by Peter Galloway