CANADA STOCKS-TSX little changed as soft energy shares limit gains

OTTAWA, July 3 (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index was little changed in thin trading on Friday with gains limited by a decline in energy shares as oil prices softened.

Volume was expected to be muted through the session due to the U.S. Independence Day holiday, and investors were also wary of taking aggressive bets heading into Sunday’s Greek referendum on the country’s bailout terms with lenders.

An opinion poll showed supporters of the terms have taken a slim lead.

Talks between Greece and international lenders collapsed last weekend, causing Greece to miss a payment to the International Monetary Fund earlier this week. The fallout from the referendum could determine whether the country remains in the euro zone.

“I think everyone thinks it’s going to work its way out, but at the same time, it’s a little bit unnerving what’s going on over there and the lack of control that they seem to have on the situation,” said Bryden Teich, associate portfolio manager at Avenue Investment Management in Toronto.

At 10:35 a.m. EDT (1435 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 15.32 points, or 0.1 percent, at 14,653.31. Of the index’s 10 main groups, six were higher.

The Greek uncertainty pushed investors to scoop up defensive shares in the financial and consumer staples sectors, though the safe-haven utilities and healthcare groups declined after benefiting from risk aversion on Thursday.

Stocks on the benchmark Canadian index not tied to energy or other natural resources are few but they could attract more interest, Teich said.

“There’s a lot fewer select names in Canada,” Teich said. “I think that might be that shift where you see some of these defensive names getting bid up a little bit more just because people are looking for places to hide out.”

Air Canada fell 0.22 percent to C$13.47 after a labor disruption by workers that refuel planes at Toronto’s main airport caused flight delays and cancellations. WestJet declined 0.9 percent to C$26.7.

The overall energy group retreated 0.2 percent as oil prices softened. Among the laggards, pipeline company Enbridge fell 0.5 percent to C$58.51.

U.S. crude prices were down 1.1 percent at $56.32 a barrel, while Brent crude lost 1.2 percent to $61.35.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the TSX by 124 to 113, for a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the upside.

$1=$1.26 Canadian Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Peter Galloway