Oct 17 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index looked set to open higher on Wednesday, as investor confidence was bolstered by stronger-than-expected U.S. earnings and housing data, and a decision by Moody’s rating agency to affirm Spain’s investment grade status.
* Groundbreaking on new U.S. homes surged in September to its fastest pace in more than four years, a sign the housing sector’s budding recovery is gaining traction.
* Spain’s government dodged a bullet when Moody’s Investors Service affirmed its investment grade rating, assuaging widespread fears that the euro zone country would be cut to a junk rating.
* Potash Corp, the world’s largest fertilizer maker, said its earnings for the full-year will be below the low end of its previous forecast range due to delays in new contracts with buyers in China and India.
* Exxon Mobil Corp said that it would acquire Canadian oil and gas company Celtic Exploration Ltd in a deal valued at about C$3.1 billion to expand its footprint within Canada.
* Penn West Petroleum Ltd said it has agreements in principle to sell some non-core properties for proceeds of up to C$1.3 billion to repay a portion of its debt.
* Bank of America Corp reported a $340 million third-quarter profit as a legal settlement and other previously disclosed charges dented its bottom line.
* Canada stock futures traded up 0.08 percent
* U.S. stock futures , , were mixed around -0.06 percent to 0.18 percent
* European shares, were up
* Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB Index : 306.66; rose 0.02 percent
* Gold futures : $1,749.9; rose 0.3 percent
* US crude : $92.26; rose 0.18 percent
* Brent crude : $113.69; fell 0.27 percent
* LME 3-month copper : $8,113.5; fell 0.14 percent
* Agrium Inc. : Hedge fund Jana Partners LLC, the largest shareholder in the fertilizer company, which has been pushing for it to split its wholesale and retail division, on Tuesday called for the company to be more open to discussing ways to boost shareholder value.
* Canadian Pacific Railway : The rail company named three new operation heads on Tuesday, in its first major management reshuffle since a bruising proxy battle earlier this year.
* Newmont Mining Corp. : The gold miner said third-quarter gold production fell 6 percent and it said it faced a record $77 million in maintenance and restructuring charges. Gold production was 1.24 million ounces, down 5.3 percent from 1.31 million ounces in the same quarter last year.
Following is a summary of research actions on Canadian companies reported by Reuters.
* Birchcliff Energy Ltd. : CIBC raises target to C$9.50 from C$8 after the company said the expansion of its Pouce Coupe South gas plant has been completed a month ahead of schedule
* Granite Real Estate Inc. : Canaccord Genuity starts with buy rating and C$40 target price citing expectations of solid growth in cash flow per share and the company’s new management team
* Keegan Resources Inc. : CIBC cuts price target to C$5 from C$6 on valuation after the company updated its resource estimates for its Esaase project in Ghana
* North American Palladium Ltd. : CIBC cuts price target to C$2.40 from C$2.50, says the expected delay in the ramp-up of the vertical shaft of the Lac des Iles mine opens up potential funding needs
* No major Canadian economic data scheduled for release
* Major U.S. events and data includes housing starts and build permits for September