CANADA STOCKS-TSX falls as lower commodity prices drag on energy, mining stocks

* TSX down 77.93 points, or 0.58 percent, to 13,305.67

* Seven of the TSX’s 10 main groups were lower

TORONTO, March 8 (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index fell on Tuesday as lower commodity prices and weak Chinese trade data weighed on energy and mining stocks, but defensive stocks rose and the index still held near three-month highs.

The energy group retreated 2.2 percent, while the materials group, which includes precious and base metals miners and fertilizer companies, lost 2.4 percent.

The most influential movers on the index included Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, which fell 1.8 percent to C$34.08, and Suncor Energy, which declined 1.3 percent to C$34.12.

Crude oil prices turned lower after posting fresh multi-month highs as a global supply glut returned to focus ahead of weekly inventory data.

U.S. crude prices were down 2.4 percent to $36.99 a barrel. Copper retreated further from last week’s four-month highs and gold dipped 0.2 percent, hovering just below 13-month high.

First Quantum Minerals Ltd tumbled more than 15 percent to C$6.15, while Barrick Gold Corp was down 2.8 percent at C$17.93.

Far worse than expected Chinese trade data stoked concerns about the health of the global economy, although the data was affected by the timing of the Lunar New Year holidays. Exports tumbled by the most in over six years, which imports notched their 16th straight month of decline.

China is a major consumer of raw materials, among them Canadian.

At 10:31 a.m. EST (1531 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index fell 77.93 points, or 0.58 percent, to 13,305.67. Seven of the index’s 10 main groups were in negative territory.

Still, the index has rebounded more than 15 percent since hitting an almost 3-1/2 year low in January.

Consumer staples rose 0.7 percent and telecommunication stocks advanced 0.8 percent as defensive sectors outperformed.

Bce Inc rose 0.8 percent to C$58.03, while Loblaw Companies Ltd was up 0.8 percent at C$71.64.

The financials group was nearly unchanged. (Reporting by Fergal Smith Editing by W Simon)