TORONTO -- Canada's main stock index dipped for just the third time in a month as lower crude oil prices hurt the key energy sector.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 25.43 points at 15,208.33 on a quiet day of trading after a rough December and 12-day rally in January.

"It seems like today the market's just taking a breather," says Anish Chopra, managing director with Portfolio Management Corp.

He said investors are digesting the news of the last few months that saw the worst December since 1931 followed by the best first month of the new year since 1987.

"Just like markets don't go down in a straight line, they certainly don't go up in a straight line, so for there to be a bit of a pause and a breather as the market finds its level that would seem appropriate."

The energy sector was the biggest loser on the day, falling by 1.24 per cent on a further slip in the price of crude. Suncor Energy Inc. lost 1.45 per cent, followed by Royal Bank of Canada and TransCanada Corp.

The March crude contract was down 39 cents at US$52.62 per barrel and the March natural gas contract was down five cents at US$2.92 per mmBTU.

Energy prices fell on continued concerns about a slowdown in the global economy and an expected report about record U.S. shale production.

The consumer discretionary sector led the TSX, gaining nearly two per cent, helped by Restaurant Brands International Inc. Its shares rose 9.6 per cent to $83.51 after the parent company of Tim Hortons, Burger King and Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen raised its dividend and announced changes in its executive suite, including the installation of a new CEO.

The Canadian dollar traded at an average of 74.92 cents US compared with an average of 74.96 cents US on Tuesday.

The February gold contract was up 60 cents at US$1,284 an ounce and the March copper contract was down half of a cent at US$2.65 a pound.

In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 171.14 points at 24,575.62. The S&P 500 index was up 5.80 points at 2,638.70, while the Nasdaq composite was up 5.41 points at 7,025.77.

U.S. markets were helped by strong fourth-quarter earnings reports by companies like IBM, Proctor & Gamble, and United Technologies.

Chopra said markets were flat on Wednesday because of a lack of breaking news on trade negotiations between the U.S. and China, China's slowing economy and the U.S. government shutdown.