TORONTO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The Toronto Stock Exchange's main index was set on Thursday to hang on to the previous day's big gains, taking a cue from rising global markets as well as higher profits from EnCana Corp (ECA.TO), Nexen Inc NXY.TO, and Sun Life Financial (SLF.TO).
The TSX, which rose nearly 200 points on Wednesday, has kept a close eye on the U.S. economy the last few months. It was seen treading water until Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on the economic outlook at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT).
As earnings season rolls along, investors also have a collection of quarterly results to leaf through.
EnCana, Canada's biggest oil and gas firm, said profits rose 63 percent in the last quarter of 2007, while Nexen, the country's No. 4 independent oil explorer, said its profit more than doubled. For details, see: [nN14227133] and [nN14425297]
In the TSX financial services sector, which has been flat the last six trading days, insurer Sun Life Financial's earnings were also higher. See: [nN14467132]
Elsewhere, Asian and European equities were encouraged by an improvement in Japan's economic outlook, and U.S. stock futures inched up on the back of a report that showed the number of workers filing jobless claims fell last week. For details, see: [nN14435420]
"The strong performance in Asia overnight is what's grabbing the most attention," said Francis Campeau, broker at MF Global Canada in Montreal, adding higher natural gas and crude oil futures should also boost the TSX energy sector.
Colder weather in North America lifted the price of gas, while supply worries lifted oil.
The S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE has risen in four of the last five sessions, adding 3.2 percent. It starts the day at 13,282.30 after jumping 194.92 points, or 1.5 percent, in the previous session.
$1=$1 Canadian Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Scott Anderson