December 17, 2010 / 1:37 PM / in 7 years

CANADA STOCKS-TSX to open flat on euro-zone debt worries

Dec 17 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index is set to open flat as markets shifted focus back to euro-zone debt after Moody’s downgraded Ireland five notches.

FACTORS TO WATCH

* Canadian equity futures <0#SXF:> point to a lower open.

* S&P 500 index futures dipped after Ireland’s credit rating was slashed. [.N]

* European shares fell, with banks lower on concerns over the euro zone debt crisis after the Ireland downgrade. AstraZeneca slipped on a setback for a key drug. [.EU]

* Asian stocks clawed higher. But the Nikkei was flat after gaining around 0.9 percent on the week, as losses in trading companies offset gains in banks and real estate sector.

COMMODITY PRICE MOVES

* The Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB index .CRB, a global commodities benchmark, fell 0.21 percent in early trade.

* Oil hovered around $88, supported by a weaker dollar and unseasonably cold northern hemisphere weather. [O/R]

* Gold prices firmed, supported by a retreat in the dollar versus the euro, and by European debt concerns. [GOL/]

* Copper prices climbed as the market focused on strong fundamentals and expectations of strong demand from top consumer China. [MET/L]

CANADIAN STOCKS TO WATCH

* BMO Financial Group (BMO.TO): The bank said on Friday that it would buy Marshall & Ilsley Corp for about $4.1 billion in a stock-for-stock deal, strengthening its position in the U.S. Midwest. BMO said that under the terms of the agreement reached with Marshall & Ilsley, each outstanding share of M&I would be exchanged for 0.1257 of a share of BMO upon closing. [ID:nN17295150]

* Suncor Energy Inc. (SU.TO): Suncor signed a C$1.75 billion oil sands deal with Total E&P Canada Ltd, a unit of France’s Total, to develop the Fort Hills and Joslyn oil sands mining projects. [ID:nLDE6BG0EZ] Suncor unveiled a 10-year growth strategy that will boost output to more than 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day by 2020. Capex will be C$6.7 billion for 2011. [ID:nSGE6BG034]

* PetroBakken Energy Ltd. PBN.TO: The company expects its Alberta play, Cardium, which was hit by wet weather conditions, to resume normal operations by the end of the first quarter, with 10-12 wells ready for production.[ID:nSGE6BG04W]

* Patheon Inc. PTI.TO: The contract drug maker posted a fourth-quarter loss, hurt by lower production at its Canadian and Puerto Rican operations and higher costs. [ID:nSGE6BG061]

* Research In Motion RIM.TO: The BlackBerry maker’s Torch, a touchscreen challenger to Apple’s iPhone, lifted third-quarter profit above analyst expectations and RIM forecast strong results for the current holiday-season quarter. [ID:nN16269441]

* Paladin Energy Ltd. PDN.TO: agreed to buy the uranium assets of Canada’s Fronteer Gold Inc (FRG) in an all-stock deal valued at about C$260 million. [ID:nSGE6BG04Z]

* Enerplus Resources Fund ERF_u.TO: The oil and gas trust expects production to grow 10 percent to 15 percent over the next two years. [ID:nSGE6BG051]

* Onex Corp. OCX.TO: The private-equity firm is talking to rival buyout firms to sell Husky Injection Molding Systems, in a deal that may fetch about $2 billion, Bloomberg said, [ID:nSGE6BG02N]

* Newalta Inc. (NAL.TO): The waste management company raised its annual capital budget for 2011 by 15 percent to C$100 million and said a major portion of the sum will be spent on its facilities and onsite segments. [ID:nSGE6BF0BV]

ANALYST RECOMMENDATIONS

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

* RIM price target raised to $61 from $54 by UBS

* Open Range Energy ONR.TO price target raised to C$2.40 from C$1.70; rating buy at Canaccord Genuity

($1= $1.01 Canadian)

Reporting by Kishan Nair and Bangalore Newsroom

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