* Main index up 71.93 points, or 0.6 percent, at 11,852.97 * Energy stocks lead rise as China policy eyed * U.S. and European central bank action also expected By Alastair Sharp TORONTO, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Resurgent energy and mining stocks on Thursday helped Canada's benchmark equity index regain ground it lost a day earlier as soft Chinese economic data kept alive talk that central bankers may ease monetary policy to stimulate growth. Shares in Canadian oil and gas companies were lifted as investors bet that slowing Chinese inflation would give the central bank of the world's second-largest economy space to further loosen policy. Gold companies including Yamana Gold Inc and Goldcorp Inc also rose as bullion prices edged higher. The resource-heavy Toronto stock market pays close attention to the potential for policy change in China, said Stephen Wood, chief investment strategist at Russell Investments in New York. "The slowdown in Europe, which is going to be with us for a good while, is probably less directly impactful on the commodity complex than what is going on in China, just because of the nature of their industrial makeup, export makeup and fabrication makeup," he said. Shares in oil and gas company Canadian Natural Resources Ltd gained 5 percent to C$31.05, playing the biggest role of any stock in leading the index higher. The company said it would cut spending but nudged its production outlook higher. Independent oil producer Crescent Point Energy Corp also helped pull the benchmark index up with a 4.8 percent jump to C$42.35 after posting a 55 percent jump in profit and raising its production forecast for the year. By 2:35 a.m. (1835 GMT) the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 77.34 points, or 0.7 percent, at 11,858.38. On Wednesday falling mining, energy and financial stocks broke a two-session rally that had pushed the index to a one-month high. Conjecture about Chinese central bank action arose after factory output growth in China slowed and consumer inflation fell to a 30-month low. "If there is one country that's going to move commodity markets, it's going to be China if you can get demand back on track," said Gareth Watson, vice president for investment management and research at Richardson GMP. Watson said that action was also being anticipated from the U.S. and European central banks. "The market is telling us they expect further steps to be taken in the near future," he said. "Whether they'll be effective is a completely different issue." The Bank of Canada remains one of the only major central banks considering tightening policy, a view reiterated by Governor Mark Carney in interviews published on Wednesday. Other stocks on the move included retailer Canadian Tire Corp Ltd, which rose 4.2 percent after reporting a higher profit. Coffee chain Tim Hortons Inc fell 3.5 percent to C$50.44 after reporting disappointing sales in Canada.