* TSX edges up 2.90 points to close at 13,406.00
* Energy shares hold firm to keep overall index higher
* Four of 10 index sectors up
* U.S. jobs report for June to set Friday's market tone (Adds details)
TORONTO, July 7 Toronto's main stock market index finished flat on Thursday, erasing gains it had held through the day just moments before the session end as market players squared positions ahead of Friday's highly anticipated U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for June.
Most of the index's gain was drawn from its oil group, which rose 0.68 percent as the price of oil rallied. Driving oil prices higher was U.S. data that showed a brighter hiring climate in the U.S. private sector, a fall in new claims for jobless benefits, and stronger same-store sales at key U.S. retailers. [ID:nN1E7660BF] [O/R]
"Oil was certainly picking up a little bit of a bid, a little bit of a confidence on those numbers this morning," said John Kurgan, senior market strategist at commodity futures brokerage Lind-Waldock.
"It looks like we're making a run back to that $100 area, there's definitely some strength there."
Suncor Energy (SU.TO), up 1.47 percent at C$39.22, Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO), up 2.95 percent at C$36.60, and Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), up 1.3 percent at C$41.67, were the three most influential gainers on the index.
The index's materials group began to unwind gains late in the session, finishing down 0.03 percent, as the price of gold eased from session highs. Safe-haven interest in gold sparked by euro zone debt worries softened a bit after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet signaled the bank would continue to raise interest rates and offered to help Portugal stay solvent. [MKTS/GLOB] [GOL/]
The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE eked out a tiny gain of 2.90 points to close at 13,406.00 after rising as high as 13,474.89 earlier in the day. Six of the index's 10 sectors ended lower.
"The (U.S.) jobless claims were marginally better than what people were expecting but the big numbers come tomorrow," said Michael Sprung, president at Sprung & Co Investment Counsel.
"Whatever that unemployment number is, those payroll numbers are going to set the tone for the whole market."
U.S. nonfarm payrolls likely rose modestly in June after suffering a setback in May. Employers are expected to have created 90,000 jobs last month after expanding payrolls by only 54,000 in May, which was the smallest gain in eight months. The May figure represented a sharp slowdown in job creation after a 232,000 jump in April. [ID:nN1E7640U2] ECONUS
Research In Motion RIM.TO rose 4 percent to C$27.87 after the BlackBerry maker said it added more than one million subscribers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in less than three weeks. [ID:nN1E7660ZC]
($1=$0.96 Canadian) (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng and Claire Sibonney; editing by Peter Galloway)