March 16, 2012 / 12:12 PM / in 6 years

TSX may open higher; oil prices may support

March 16 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index looked set to edge higher on Friday, taking cues from U.S. and Europe and from commodity prices.

FACTORS TO WATCH

* Canadian equity futures pointed to a higher open.

* U.S. stock index futures were little changed ahead of data on consumer sentiment. The benchmark S&P 500 index closed above 1,400 for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.

* European equities climbed to levels not seen since the summer, with charts pointing to more near-term gains as long as economic data and earnings remain supportive.

COMMODITY PRICE MOVES

* The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index, a global commodities benchmark, rose 0.09 percent in early trade.

* Brent crude rebounded trading near $123 a barrel as traders focused on restricted Iranian exports and outages that are trimming spare capacity, after a sharp selloff the previous day.

* Gold faced its largest weekly decline in three months after top consumer India said it would double import duties on bullion and upbeat U.S. data fed optimism over the global economy and boosed the appetite for risk.

* Copper firmed, supported by an improved U.S. economic outlook, although worries about demand from top consumer China amid higher Shanghai stocks is likely to weigh on sentiment.

CANADIAN STOCKS TO WATCH

* BCE Inc : The company said it has agreed to acquire Astral Media in a deal that values the television and radio program broadcaster at about C$3.38 billion, including the assumption of debt.

* Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd. : The company’s fourth-quarter loss more than doubled and the company, which in January signaled a possible sale of itself, forecast lower 2012 production.

* Stella-Jones : The company reported a 26 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit helped by strong demand for its railway ties.

* Air Canada : The union representing 3,000 pilots at the airline said on Thursday it will launch a legal challenge to Canadian government legislation preventing a strike or lockout at the company.

ANALYST RECOMMENDATIONS

Following is a summary of research actions on Canadian companies reported by Reuters.

* Aurizon Mines : CIBC cuts price target to C$7.50 from C$8

* Fairborne : National Bank Financial cuts price target to C$3 from C$4; CIBC cuts price target to C$5 from C$5.75

* Gabriel Resources : CIBC cuts price target to C$8 from C$8.50

* Power Corp Of Canada : CIBC raises price target to C$27.50 from C$27

* Power Financial : CIBC raises price target to C$29.50 from C$28.50

* Premium Brands : National Bank Financial raises price target to C$21.50 from C$19

* Quebecor : CIBC raises price target to C$42 from C$41; Canaccord genuity raises price target to C$46 from C$42

* Raging River : CIBC starts with sector outperformer rating

* Richmont Mines : National Bank Financial ups to sector perform from underperform

* Transat A.T : Canaccord Genuity cuts target to C$7.25 from C$7.50, rating hold; CIBC cuts price target to C$7 from C$7.50

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