CANADA STOCKS-TSX slightly higher as jobs data helps, oil hurts

(Adds portfolio manager comment, details; updates prices)

* Seven of the TSX’s 10 main groups rise

TORONTO, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index advanced tentatively in early trade on Thursday after seven days of losses as financial and industrial stocks rose, although weak oil prices kept the pressure on energy stocks.

In a boost for sentiment, the country added more jobs than anticipated in December, including modest gains in the struggling manufacturing and natural resources sectors.

U.S. jobs data also produced a positive surprise.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index technically entered a bear market on Wednesday, down more than 20 percent from the record high it hit in September 2014.

At 10:40 a.m. EST (1540 GMT), it was up 14.18 points, or 0.11 percent, at 12,462.39, just outside of bear territory of 12,419.80. Seven of its 10 main groups were higher.

Six of the seven biggest advancers were financials, with the group up 0.6 percent overall and Sun Life Financial Inc rising 1.2 percent to C$40.32.

Industrials rose 0.5 percent, helped by a 1.3 percent gain to C$31.31 for Canadian Utilities Ltd after it raised its dividend by 10 percent. Canadian National Railway rose 0.7 percent to C$72.43.

The index had fallen earlier in the week, along with most global equity markets, as the new year kicked off with wild gyrations in the Chinese stock market that fanned fears of broader malaise.

“I do think the last four trading days were an anomaly of fear and we’re going to have a significant rebound in stocks,” said Barry Schwartz, a portfolio manager at Baskin Financial Services. “But I do think 2016 will be a challenging year.”

The most influential decliners were energy stocks, which retreated 0.8 percent, and the materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies and lost 0.8 percent.

Canadian Natural Resources fell 1.3 percent to C$27.18 as oil prices slipped back to near 11-1/2-year lows, amid persistent global oversupply and a bleak demand outlook.

Goldcorp Inc declined 2.6 percent to C$17.48 and Barrick Gold Corp fell 2.5 percent to C$12.03 as bullion pulled back from a 9-week high following the U.S. jobs report that boosted the U.S. currency.

Editing by Bernadette Baum