Toronto stocks set to be buoyed by EnCana's plans

Mon May 12, 2008 9:01am EDT
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TORONTO May 12 (Reuters) - Toronto's main stock market index was set for a higher open on Monday as EnCana Corp's ECA.TO plans to split into two separate oil and natural gas firms shines the spotlight on the influential sector.

Canada's biggest energy company said the move was an effort to wring out more value with crude prices at record highs.

Indeed, market watchers said the split will put the emphasis on the sector as investors start to see the company and its peers as takeover targets for international firms.

"I think you will see some of the other integrated (oil companies) trade off that news and it could be the one catalyst that pushes the market higher today," said Steve Ibel, an institutional equities trader at Beacon Securities in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

But some of those gains could be offset by weaker commodities as the prices of key resources, including oil and gold, retreat.

U.S. crude oil slipped 1.4 percent to $124.22 a barrel as the stronger U.S. dollar and profit taking put the brakes on a rally that took the commodity to record levels last week.

Gold producers could come under pressure on Monday as the price for the precious metal slipped as the dollar rallied.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE begins the week at 14,521.19 after dropping 86 points on Friday as profit taking overshadowed oil's race to new highs.

Among individual companies, Imax Corp IMX.TO could see pressure after it reported a first-quarter loss that more than doubled as the giant-screen movie theater firm pressed ahead with its conversion to a digital platform.

Research In Motion Ltd RIM.TORIMM.O could see interest after it said it is launching a new high-end version of the BlackBerry aimed at its core base of business users.

TransCanada Corp TRP.TO could also see interest after it signed a power purchase agreement to sell all of its power from its new Coolidge Generating Station to an Arizona utility. ($1=$1.01 Canadian) (Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)