* TSX up 0.28 percent to 11,755.09
* Energy group rises as oil price firms
* End of Australian mining tax may be near after election
* Potash up 2.1 pct, among big deals in play this month
* Gold miners retreat, price of precious metal steady
By Ka Yan Ng
TORONTO, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Toronto’s main stock index edged higher on Monday morning as oil prices firmed and investor sentiment rose on optimism for several big corporate merger deals.
Mining stocks also got a lift from speculation that Australia’s inconclusive weekend elections could spell the end of a controversial mining tax. [ID:nAUVOTE]
Cameco (CCO.TO) was up 2 percent at C$27.22, while Teck Resources TCKb.TO rose 0.6 percent to C$34.55.
“That Australian election result gave the mining and metals sector a bit of a kick start here,” said Bruce Latimer, trader at Dundee Securities.
“But volumes are light. They’ve been light the last few weeks, and especially on Mondays and Fridays.”
However, gold-mining stocks were among the TSX’s chief decliners, keeping the overall materials group nearly unchanged.
Golds took a breather following gains earlier this month on safe-haven buying, amid uncertainty about the world economic outlook. The price of gold was flat on Monday.
At 10:30 a.m. (1430 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index .GSPTSE was up 33.02 points, or 0.28 percent, at 11,755.09. Eight of the index’s 10 main groups were up, led by a 0.54 percent gain in the hefty energy group.
The price of oil climbed above $74 a barrel on Monday from last week’s six-week low, although bulging U.S. inventories and a lack of storm activity in the Gulf of Mexico limited gains. [O/R]
A surge in the outlook for further M&A activity this month has also helped boost equities in Canada and around the world. Thomson Reuters data showed global mergers and acquisitions have hit nearly $200 billion so far in August.[ID:nLDE67M0IJ]
“That’s certainly positive for the underlying market. If people feel credit markets and that are in good shape, that certainly provides a good tone,” said Latimer.
At home, takeover target Potash Corp POT.TO was up 2.1 percent at C$160.33, near its highest level since the No. 1 fertilizer producer was put in play by BHP Billiton’s (BHP.AX) BLT.L $39 billion hostile bid.
Potash Corp. continues to mull its alternatives, and has held discussions with China’s Sinochem Group, a source close to the matter said on Monday. [ID:nN22340110]
Among other key deals in the making was one by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ.N), which has topped a bid by technology rival Dell Inc DELL.O to buy data storage company 3PAR (PAR.N). As well, Campbell Soup Co (CPB.N) may make a $2.3 billion break-up bid for Britain’s United Biscuits, which is owned by private equity firms PAI Partners and Blackstone Group LP (BX.N). [ID:nN23188685] [ID:nLDE67L05L]
Elsewhere, HSBC (HSBA.L) is in talks to buy a stake in South Africa’s Nedbank, while an estimated $58 billion worth of M&A was playing out on Monday in Asia.
$1=$1.05 Canadian Reporting by Ka Yan Ng; editing by Rob Wilson