* TSX up 73.50 points at 9,353.45
* Energy and financials shares lead rally
* Canadian economic data aids rise (Adds details and comments)
By Frank Pingue
TORONTO, April 23 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index was higher on Thursday morning as energy shares rallied on Suncor Energy's (SU.TO) better-than-expected quarterly results, while economic data helped improve sentiment.
The energy sector led the index higher with a 1.7 percent gain after news that Canadian oil company Suncor had a loss in the first quarter that was less steep than analysts had expected [ID:nLN617354]
Shares of Suncor rose 2.8 percent to C$30.28, while shares of Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), another key energy player, were up 2 percent at C$57.82.
"You're seeing more and more signs of the economy not recovering sharply but leveling off, and that's the first sign of what you need to have a better overall market environment," said Peter Chandler, senior vice-president at Canaccord Capital in Waterloo, Ontario.
"We're seeing it in earnings, where in most cases companies are coming in and meeting or beating the lowered expectations ... and we're seeing encouraging signs in some of the data."
Data released on Thursday showed Canadian retail sales edged up by 0.2 percent in February from January. The market had expected sales to be unchanged. [ID:nN23310364]
Chandler said the figures gave investors another reason to stay in the market even after though it has rallied about 25 percent from early March.
The upbeat sentiment, Chandler said, helped to keep the weighty financials index up 0.5 percent, led by insurer Manulife Financial (MFC.TO), whose shares were up 0.4 percent at C$19.72.
At 10:10 a.m. (1410 GMT), the S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 73.50 points, or 0.79 percent, at 9,353.45. Earlier it had rallied as high as 9,379.62, for a gain of 1 percent.
Eight of the TSX's 10 sectors were higher.
$1=$1.24 Canadian Editing by Peter Galloway