(Updates with details, comments)
* TSX ends up 21.04 points, or 0.17 pct, at 12,391.23
* Eight of 10 sectors stronger
By Claire Sibonney
TORONTO, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index eked out a small gain on Tuesday in volatile trade as investors reacted to mixed signals about Spain's readiness to seek a bailout while awaiting the next big catalyst to drive markets after a strong third quarter.
It was the second straight positive day at the start of the fourth quarter. The TSX finished the third quarter up more than 6 percent, as energy companies and miners benefited from a strong showing in crude and bullion prices.
On Tuesday, firmer energy and financial shares outweighed weakness in materials issues. Canada's main index outperformed Wall Street amid questions about the upcoming earnings season.
"We have just completed the quarter, so a lot of people are now realigning their positions, and they're going to take a few days to look ahead to this quarter," said Ron Meisels, technical analyst and president of Phases & Cycles in Montreal. "A positive quarter usually signals good earnings to come."
Among the most influential names on the upside, Cenovus Energy
jumped 2 percent to C$35.25 and Suncor Energy
advanced 0.9 percent to C$32.93.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index
ended up 21.04 points, or 0.2 percent, at 12,391.23. Eight of the 10 sectors were positive, including financials, up 0.1 percent.
The TSX drifted between positive and negative territory for most of the day, as enthusiasm on signs that a bailout request from Spain as early as the weekend faded.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said a request for European aid was not imminent following a report the country could apply for help soon.
Germany has signaled that Madrid should hold off on making its request, according to European officials on Monday.
Among the decliners on the TSX, precious metal miners and fertilizer companies reversed some of the previous day's rally. Potash Corp
lost 2.4 percent to C$41.97 and Goldcorp Inc
was down 1.1 percent to C$44.93.
While October is historically a negative month for stocks, Meisels said, the market doesn't usually sell off as heavily in a U.S. election year.
He said a support level for the TSX was seen around 12,000 and resistance near 12,800.
If the last quarter was any indication, the TSX - up 4 percent in 2012 - may still have room to climb heading into the end of the year.
"Frankly, we've been grinding higher now since early June," said Paul Hand, managing director at RBC Capital Markets. "I think we've seen a bit of inflection point in that the denial factor that went on for the first three or four months has started to filter out."
"There are people talking about having to invest because they've missed the rally and they've got to put some money to work."
(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Leslie Adler)
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