CANADA STOCKS-TSX ends higher as financials gain on defensive buying

* TSX index up 44.40 points, or 0.3 percent, at 14,682.39

* Energy shares drop on lower oil prices

OTTAWA, July 3 (Reuters) - Canada’s main stock index rose on Friday, recording its third straight daily gain, as strength in financials as defensive plays as the Greek crisis rages helped overcome a decline in oil and gas shares.

Volume was muted through the session due to the U.S. Independence Day holiday, and investors were also wary of making 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.

“There is some edginess in the market,” said Thane Stenner, portfolio manager at wealth management firm StennerZohny Investment Partners+, a unit of Richardson GMP.

“It’s a coin toss-up as to how the Greeks are going to vote,” he added. “We’re expecting next week to open up with more volatility.”

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index unofficially closed up 44.40 points, or 0.3 percent, at 14,682.39. Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were higher.

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

Financials, the index’s most heavily weighted sector, added 0.6 percent. Bank of Nova Scotia climbed 1.3 percent to C$64.21.

Air Canada fell 0.4 percent to C$13.44 after a labor disruption by workers that refuel planes at Toronto’s main airport caused flight delays and cancellations. WestJet declined 1.5 percent to C$26.53.

The overall energy group retreated 0.4 percent as oil prices softened. Among the laggards, pipeline company Enbridge fell 0.6 percent to C$58.47.

U.S. crude prices were down 2.5 percent at $55.52 a barrel, while Brent crude lost 2.5 percent to $60.55.

$1=$1.26 Canadian Additional reporting by John Tilak; Editing by Peter Galloway