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(New throughout, updates prices and market activity to close, adds analyst comment)
* TSX ends up 51.16 points, or 0.38 percent, at 13,596
* Six of the TSX's 10 main groups rose
By Alastair Sharp
TORONTO, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Gains among banking and telecom stocks helped lift Canada's main stock index on Thursday, while a modest bump in the price of crude oil was not enough to lure investors back into the country's struggling energy sector.
Investor sentiment got a slight boost from data showing healthy growth in exports for a second straight month in July, although caution remains the underlying theme following last week's confirmation of a mild recession in the first half.
"People are picking away where they see some interesting opportunities outside energy, but otherwise there's a lot of playing around going on," said Brian Pow, an equity analyst at Acumen Capital Partners in Calgary.
He said the consensus view on when a recovery could take hold in the energy industry has pushed out to the middle to the end of next year.
The most influential movers included its biggest telecom companies, with BCE Inc rising 1.9 percent to C$53.85, Telus Corp advancing 1.8 percent to C$43.16, and Rogers Communications Inc adding 2.5 percent to C$44.70.
The financials group, the index's most influential, climbed 0.7 percent, with Royal Bank of Canada up 0.9 percent to C$71.95, Bank of Nova Scotia advancing 1.1 percent to C$59.05, and Toronto-Dominion Bank gaining 0.8 percent to C$51.79.
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index ended up 51.16 points, or 0.38 percent, at 13,596.
"People might be reading through the technical recession ... and some of that positivity is showing itself in the market today," said Bryden Teich, associate portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management.
Oil rose early on a pledge by the European Central Bank to keep monetary policy loose, but prices faded and ended with just a modest gain.
Teich said uncertainty and volatility will likely remain for now, as worries over China's economy, what the Federal Reserve will decide at its next meeting later this month, and Friday's U.S. and Canadian employment figures remain in focus.
"A lot of it will come down to what the Fed does when they make their decision in a couple of weeks. There's a lot of uncertainty," said Teich.
On the earnings front, Sears Canada shares jumped 4.7 percent to C$8.87 after the struggling retailer posted a smaller operating loss and the slowest decline in comparable stores sales in six quarters.
Resources stocks weighed, with Barrick Gold Corp off 3.9 percent to C$8.53 and Canadian Oil Sands declining 4.7 percent to C$6.46. (Additional reporting by Solarina Ho; Editing by Andrew Hay and David Gregorio)