* TSX edges up 0.25 percent to 13,286.20
* Eight sectors fall, resources keep TSX on higher ground
* European bank stress tests awaited
* Valeant rises on signs it to become skincare player (Adds details)
TORONTO, July 15 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock market index was held aloft on Friday by gains in the energy group, while most other sectors were lower ahead of the release of European bank stress tests.
U.S. crude oil futures extended gains on pre-weekend short-covering and a major deal in the global energy sector, also helped lift shares about 1 percent in the influential oil and gas group.
Top gainers were Suncor Energy (SU.TO), up 1.25 percent at C$38.07, while Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO) rose 1.3 percent to C$39.81. Talisman Energy TLM.TO advanced 2.16 percent to C$18.44.
“Energy is going to continue to be a key economic wildcard,” said Stephen Wood, chief investment strategist for North America at Russell Investments in New York. He said if China’s economy can stick a soft landing, and the U.S. economy improves, that will support commodity markets.
“I think commodities, and specifically energy, are responding to the ebbs and flows of 2012 GDP forecasts.”
Earlier this week, a Reuters poll showed economists expect the U.S. economy to perk up in the second half of this year, though high unemployment will probably weigh. [ID:nN1E76D14B]
At 10:45 a.m. (1445 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was off early highs, but up 32.52 points, or 0.25 percent, at 13,286.20. Eight of the index’s 10 main sectors were lower, with the exception of its two resource-based groups. Materials rose 0.4 percent.
Earlier gains were broadly based, with the TSX rising as high as 13,337.24, and buoyed by stronger profit at U.S. bank Citigroup, which offset persisting fears about U.S. and European debt levels.
Overhanging the market were the European Banking Authority test results, due to be published at 1600 GMT (noon EDT). The report is expected to show that as many as 15 lenders need more capital to withstand a prolonged recession, with criticism growing that the tests do not encompass the impact of a Greek default. [ID:nL6E7IE23E]
“That’s going to be a huge story. More important than the final report of how many thumbs up, how many thumbs down, I think is going to be to reveal the details of the measurement and the evaluation,” said Wood.
In individual company news, Valeant Pharmaceuticals VRX.TO was one of the most influential advancing issues, rising 2.45 percent to C$51.84. The specialty drugmaker said it will pay $345 million to buy the skincare unit of Johnson & Johnson-owned (JNJ.N) Janssen Pharmaceuticals. [ID:nL3E7IF25X]
The J&J deal follows Valeant’s planned $425 million acquisition of Sanofi’s (SASY.PA) Dermik skincare business earlier this week.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CM.TO) was up 0.2 percent after it said it will buy a 41 percent stake in a U.S. asset manager from JPMorgan Chase & Co for $848 million in cash. [ID:nL3E7IF1PD]
Goldcorp Inc (G.TO) was off 0.2 percent at C$51.64 as the gold producer said forest fires near its Musselwhite mine in northwestern Ontario prompted the company to evacuate employees and halt mining operations at the site. [ID:nL3E7IE4BR]
($1=$0.96 Canadian) (Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Peter Galloway)