(Updates to market close)
By Shashwat Chauhan and Divya Rajagopal
Sept 30 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index ended flat in volatile trading on the last day of a quarter that has been plagued with worries around economic growth and hawkish central bank policy actions.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index provisionally ended up 2.38 points, or 0.01%, at 18,444.22, after climbing to the day's high of 18,685.04. The index lost 2% in the past quarter, and is down 16.8% from its year high.
"It does look like pretty much the whole market is braced for recession," said Elvis Picardo, portfolio manager at Luft Financial, iA Private Wealth. "Though the TSX continues to outperform the S&P due to the energy and commodities stock, but it has also come under selling pressure. We are taking a defensive approach to our portfolio but it is likely that Q4 we can see some kind of bounce back," Picardo added.
The Canadian economy grew 0.1% in July, data showed on Thursday, compared with analysts' forecast for a 0.1% decline.
The slight gain in July and likely lack of growth in August suggest third-quarter annualized GDP growth of about 1%, well below the Bank of Canada's most recent forecast of 2.0%, analysts said.
"Sentiment is very pessimistic (out there)," said Angelo Kourkafas, investment strategist at Edward Jones Investments.
"As more investors anticipate the recession, we think that now might be the time to ask the question what could go right? It would have to come down to better inflation readings so October can be a month where global equities and the TSX can start to stabilize."
Gold stocks were boosted by higher bullion prices, as the yellow metal rose to a one-week high on Friday as the dollar retreated from recent highs.
That lifted up shares of Barrick Gold 6.5% while Agnico Eagle Mines rose 2.8%.
Beaten-down technology stocks gained, with Dye & Durham jumping 9.2%. The stock has been on an upward trend after its planned A$2.47 billion ($1.63 billion) purchase of Australia's Link Administration collapsed last week.
Meanwhile, data from the U.S. showed inflation-adjusted consumer spending edged up 0.1% in August after dipping 0.1% in the prior month.
Canadian drug firm Bellus Health climbed 4.4% after RBC raised its price target on the company's U.S.-listed shares.
Luxury retailer Canada Goose Holdings fell 4.3, the most on the TSX. (Reporting by Shashwat Chauhan; editing by Uttaresh.V, Vinay Dwivedi and Diane Craft)