* TSX index up 0.72 percent at 8,446.92
* Energy sector, up 2.2 pct, boosted by higher oil (Adds details, quotes)
TORONTO, March 17 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index rallied on Tuesday afternoon as energy issues got a boost from higher oil and hopes that the global banking system is stabilizing helped lift financials.
Oil and gas stocks, up 2.2 percent, led the TSX higher as the price of crude climbed above $49 a barrel, ahead of U.S. inventory data expected to shows a build in crude stocks. [ID:nSP469633]. Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) rose 3.6 percent to C$49.41.
The hefty financials group, home to banks and insurance companies and heavily weighted in the index, rose 1 percent, extending five straight days of gains.
"I do think it's lingering good news that some of the major U.S. financial services companies made money in the first and second months of the year," said Kate Warne, Canadian market strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis, Missouri.
Financials have rallied in recent sessions on reassuring statements made by some banks about their performance, easing fears about the ailing banking system. This spurred a rally in the broader equity markets. Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) climbed 1 percent at C$35.90.
Warne added the absence of any overly negative news is also helping to lift the market.
"We're likely to continue to see the market trade on sentiment," she said.
"As people are feeling a bit more comfortable we could easily see this rally continue. Everyone is waiting to see what the underlying economic and earnings news is going to be."
At 2:08 p.m. (1808 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 60.21 points, or 0.72 percent, at 8,446.92, with six of its 10 main groups higher.
The main index started the day off on firmer footing, but see-sawed for most of the morning.
Much of the earlier weakness came from the resource-laden materials group, down 1.7 percent, pressured in part by falling bullion prices. Gold miner Goldcorp (G.TO) was lower by 2.3 percent at C$36.26. ($1=$1.27 Canadian) (Reporting by Jennifer Kwan; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson)