April 28, 2011 / 12:48 PM / 6 years ago

CANADA STOCKS-TSX may open flat; firm profits offset growth fear

April 28 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index looked set to open little changed on Thursday, with stronger corporate earnings and rise in some commodities including gold offset by concerns about the outlook for North American economic growth.

Canadian companies reporting stronger-than-expected earnings included Potash Corp. (POT.TO), paper maker Domtar Corp. (UFS.TO) and pharmacy chain Jean Coutu Group Inc.

FACTORS TO WATCH

* Canadian equity futures <0#SXF:> pointed to a flat open.

* U.S. stock index futures edged lower, adding to losses after the release of unexpectedly weak U.S. growth data. [.N]

* European shares rose as investors bet ultra-loose U.S. policy will continue to drive money into riskier assets. [.EU]

* Asian stocks were mixed with Hong Kong shares falling for a third consecutive day, while Japan’s Nikkei added 1.6 percent, gaining ground for the sixth straight session, boosted by a raft of strong earnings.

COMMODITY PRICE MOVES

* The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index .CRB, a global commodities benchmark, rose 0.11 percent in early trade.

* Oil prices slid from earlier highs as prospects for slower growth in the world’s top economy dampened sentiment, outweighing a sliding dollar and signs of lower North Sea supplies. [O/R]

* Gold hit record highs as the dollar’s three-year low against a basket of major currencies attracted non-U.S. investors, after the United States signaled it would retain accommodative monetary policy. [GOL/]

* Copper climbed after U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled interest rates would stay low, which dented the dollar and underpinned metals, although rising inventories continued to pressure sentiment. [MET/L]

CANADIAN STOCKS TO WATCH

* Potash Corp. (POT.TO): Potash Corp (POT.TO), the world’s largest fertilizer maker, reported a first-quarter profit that topped expectations , as soaring grain prices pushed farmers to increase their use of crop nutrients. [ID:nN28203376]

* Thomson Reuters Corp. (TRI.TO): The news and information provider’s revenue growth accelerated in the first quarter as it reaped the benefits of heavy spending on new products, and the company said it plans to sell two more businesses to fund further investment. [ID:nN26263605]

* MEG Energy Corp. (MEG.TO): The oil sands developer said its first-quarter profit rose 23 times, buoyed by a surge in bitumen production, and backed its full-year output forecast. [ID:nL3E7FS2HE]

* CGI Group Inc. (GIBa.TO): The technology outsourcing and consulting company, posted a higher second-quarter profit, as it won new contracts and extended some of the existing ones. [ID:nL3E7FS2WU]

* Domtar Corp. (UFS.TO): The pulp and paper producer’s first-quarter profit topped market estimates, as a result of higher paper shipments and higher selling prices of pulp, but the company expects shipments to decline this year. [ID:nL3E7FS3J0]

* Jean Coutu Group Inc. PJCa.TO: The pharmacy chain posted a higher quarterly profit, beating market estimates, as new store openings drove results. [ID:nN28177817]

* Methanex Corp. (MX.TO): The world’s largest methanol supplier posted a higher first-quarter profit, helped by an increase in prices, and raised its dividend by 10 percent. [ID:nL3E7FS0F4]

* Mullen Group MTL.TO: The trucking and logistics company which mostly serves the Canadian oilfield sector said its quarterly profit doubled as a rise in drilling activity in western Canada created strong demand for its services. [ID:nL3E7FR4QK]

* Flint Energy Services Ltd. FES.TO: The oilfield service firm said it expects to report a first-quarter loss, hurt by adverse weather and project delays in its production services segment. [ID:nL3E7FR573]

ANALYST RECOMMENDATIONS

Following is a summary of research actions on Canadian companies reported by Reuters. [RCH/CA]

* Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO) price target raised to C$43 from C$42; rating sector performer at CIBC

* Flint Energy Services Ltd FES.TO price target cut to C$19 from C$20; rating sector performer at CIBC

* Mullen Group MTL.TO price target raised to C$23.50 from C$23; rating sector performer at CIBC

* MTY Food Group Inc MTY.TO price target raised to C$17.50 from C$17; keeps sector perform rating at National Bank

* Surge Energy SGY.V price target raised to C$12 from C$11.25; rating outperform at National Bank

$1= $0.95 Canadian Reporting by Anil Kumar; editing by Jeffrey Hodgson

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