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Dec 16 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index pointed to a higher open on Monday as strong European economic data offset mixed Asian economic news, though investors were still focusing on when the U.S. Federal Reserve might begin to taper its monetary stimulus. TOP STORIES
* Euro zone businesses ended the year on a high as new orders surged, but the chasm between a resurgent Germany and wilting France has widened this month, surveys showed.
* Growth in activity in China's vast factory sector slowed to a three-month low in December as reduced output offset a pickup in new orders, a preliminary private survey showed, in line with other recent data pointing to a resilient but slowing economy.
* Insurer American International Group Inc said it would sell its aircraft-leasing business to AerCap Holdings NV in a deal valued at about $5.4 billion.
* BP has signed 30-year deals to develop Oman's Khazzan tight gas project at an estimated investment of $16 billion, that will help the Omani economy to keep growing and bolster flagging gas exports.
* Barrick Gold Corp is laying off roughly 1,500 of its approximately 5,000 workers on the Argentine side of its suspended Pascua-Lama gold mine project, a local government spokesman said on Saturday.
* Canada stock futures traded up 0.56 percent
* U.S. stock futures , , were up around 0.54 percent to 0.59 percent
* European shares, were up COMMODITY PRICE MOVES
* Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB Index : 280.4445; rose 0.07 percent
* Gold futures : $1,230.4; fell 0.43 percent
* US crude : $97.41; rose 0.84 percent
* Brent crude : $110.56; rose 1.59 percent
* LME 3-month copper : $7,284.75; rose 0.41 percent
* TransCanada Corp : Continental Resources, one of the companies that has committed to ship crude on TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, now says the controversial pipeline is no longer needed.
Following is a summary of research actions on Canadian companies reported by Reuters.
* Alaris Royalty Corp : National Bank Financial cuts rating to sector perform from outperform, says the company's share price momentum could finally take a pause following its poor decision to partner with Sears Home Services
* H&R Real Estate Investment Trust : National Bank Financial starts with outperform rating and target price of C$25.25 on valuation
* Lake Shore Gold Corp : RBC raises to sector perform from underperform after the company successfully completed its mill expansion, delivered two months of solid operating results, and raised its 2014 production guidance
* Secure Energy Services Inc : RBC raises target price to C$20 from C$17, says the company's 2014 capital budget reflects its opportunities to capitalize on the trend of rising metres and increasing produced water or fluid volumes from growing levels of oil production in Canada
* Twin Butte Energy Ltd : CIBC reinstates with sector performer rating after coming off restrictions following the close of the company's convertible debentures offering
* Major Canadian economic data includes Canadian and foreign securities
* Major U.S. events and data includes capital utilization, manufacturing PMI and industrial output