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CANADA STOCKS-TSX gains on Potash, banks; gold miners slip

(Adds strategist comment, updates prices to close) By Alastair Sharp TORONTO, April 24 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index rose slightly on Thursday, helped by a gain in shares of Potash Corp after the company's results beat low expectations and by small increases in heavyweight banking stocks.

The upward thrust was offset by declines in major gold miners and an 11.5 percent plunge in Colombia-focused oil company Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp.

With the domestic stock market hitting highs last reached in mid-2008, stock pickers are taking a more nuanced view in building positions, resulting in long-maligned sectors such as energy producing winners and losers in almost equal measure.

"Investors are becoming much more discerning. You're not seeing buying across the board," said Elvis Picardo, a strategist at Global Securities in Vancouver.

Potash Corp shares rose 1.8 percent to C$39.02 after the world's biggest fertilizer company beat profit expectations in a tough quarter.

"Today's news on Potash is a classic example," Picardo said. "People were bearish on that name for quite a while, so the bar was low and the company came out and beat expectations." The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended up 20.86 points, or 0.14 percent, at 14,554.25. Eight of its 10 main sectors notched gains.

But Barrick Gold fell 1.7 percent at C$19.25, and Goldcorp Inc was down 0.7 percent at C$27.08.

Canada has been one of the best performing markets globally since the start of the year. On Wednesday the index hit 14,587.09, its strongest level since mid-2008.

"We're noticing strong, large-cap names in Canada are moving very strongly to the upside," said Sid Mokhtari, a market technician at CIBC World Markets. "Canada was unloved for quite some time, and the big game changer is that the Canadian dollar is weak. That is going to benefit Western Canada." Energy companies were mixed. Suncor Energy Inc fell 1 percent at C$40.96; Husky Energy Inc shed 1.6 percent at C$35.74; and Talisman Energy Inc slipped 0.8 percent to C$11.81.

Pipeline company TransCanada Corp moved 1.1 percent higher, to C$50.38, and Enbridge Inc was up 0.3 percent at C$52.00.

Among the financial stocks helping the index stay positive, insurer Manulife Financial Corp gained 0.7 percent to C$20.75 and Bank of Nova Scotia added 0.3 percent to C$65.59.

(Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Leslie Adler)