Nov 18 (Reuters) - Toronto's resource-heavy main stock index looked set to open higher on Thursday, buoyed by rising commodity prices and hopes Ireland may soon see a solution to debt problems which have hurt financial market sentiment.
* Canadian equity futures <0#SXF:> pointed to a higher open.
* U.S. stock index futures held gains after the government said new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits rose slightly last week. [.N]
* European stocks rallied, turning positive on the week as hopes of a solution to Ireland's debt crisis and results from a Spanish debt auction soothed investors' fears over euro zone sovereign debt. [.EU]
* Asian shares rebounded after an eight-day sell-off with Japan's Nikkei rising more than 2 percent to close above 10,000 for the first time since late June on falling yen.
* The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index .CRB, a global commodities benchmark, rose 1.49 percent in early trade.
* Oil retraced part of a steep four-session drop as worries about Ireland's debt crisis eased and a sharp crude inventory drawdown in top consumer the United States propped up prices. [O/R]
* Gold rose more than 1 percent in Europe, recovering from four sessions of losses, as a drop in the value of the dollar versus the euro helped commodity prices to recoup some of this week's hefty losses. [GOL/]
* Copper climbed more than 2.5 percent, as a weak dollar supported industrial metals after concerns over Euro zone sovereign debt eased. [MET/L]
* Western Coal WTN.TO: U.S. coal maker Walter Energy said on Thursday it is in talks to buy the miner for $3.24 billion, to create a steelmaking coal giant aimed at exploiting Asian demand. [ID:nSGE6AH0BN]
* Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines Ltd. CLM.TO: The miner said on Thursday it appointed Brian Tobin as interim CEO of the company, as Richard Quesnel, the former CEO, was stepping down after having been found guilty of breaking share trading laws. [ID:nSGE6AH0A8]
* Shaw Communications Inc. (SJRb.TO): The cable provider said on Wednesday that Brad Shaw had become CEO, effective immediately, speeding up a succession plan announced less than a month ago. [ID:nN17284176]
* Heritage Oil HOC.TO: British oil explorer said a key well in the Kurdistan region of Iraq beat its target by encountering hydrocarbons at deeper than expected depths. [ID:nLDE6AG1QD]
* Maple Leaf Foods (MFI.TO): The leading food processor said on Wednesday that it will close its pork plant in Berwick, Nova Scotia, at the end of April and added closure costs, including severance, decommissioning and asset writedowns to total C$17 million before tax. [ID:nN17204148]
Following is a summary of research actions on Canadian companies reported by Reuters. [RCH/CA]
* Precision Drilling (PD.TO) price target raised to C$10.25 from C$9.50; keeps sector perform rating at National Bank
$1= $1.02 Canadian Reporting by Kishan Nair and Bangalore newsroom; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson