CANADA STOCKS-TSX may open lower as euro zone data, U.S. cuts weigh
Mar 4 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock index looked set to open lower after data showed euro zone investor sentiment fell sharply and as automatic U.S. spending cuts officially took effect on Friday after political leaders failed to agree on steps to avoid them.
But TransCanada Corp shares are expected to get a boost from a positive U.S. report on the company's contentious Keystone XL pipeline, as are those of Canadian energy producers under pressure from deeply discounted heavy oil prices.
* Euro zone sentiment fell sharply in March, halting a six-month rise after an inconclusive election in Italy, the region's third- largest economy, rattled investors. Italy appeared to be inching toward another round of elections on Monday after centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani issued an ultimatum to 5-Star Movement leader Beppe Grillo to support a temporary government or "we'll all go home".
* President Barack Obama raised anew the issue of cutting entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security as a way out of damaging budget cuts, a White House official said on Sunday, as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans.
* HSBC is to increase dividend payouts this year, a sign that Europe's largest bank has regained its financial strength even though full-year profits fell more than expected.
* U.S. silver miner Hecla Mining Co will buy Aurizon Mines Ltd for about C$796 million to gain control of a gold mine in Quebec, nearly a month after the company rejected an unsolicited offer from Alamos Gold Inc.
* The Keystone XL oil pipeline got a boost on Friday when the U.S. State Department said the project would not likely change the rate at which Canada's oil sands are developed, discounting warnings from environmentalists that it would lead to a spike in greenhouse gas emissions. Continued...