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TSX to open higher: markets find lift from positive Alcoa earnings, outlook

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market was set for a slightly higher open Wednesday after resource giant Alcoa Inc. delivered a positive earnings report and outlook.

There was also major corporate dealmaking as Progress Energy awarded a $5-billion contract to TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) that will see the pipeline company design, build, own and operate the proposed Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project. The project will carry gas from northeastern British Columbia to a proposed export facility near Prince Rupert.

Progress, recently acquired by Malaysia’s state-owned energy company, plans to export liquefied natural gas from the port to markets in energy-hungry Asian markets.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.12 of a cent to 100.23 cents US.

U.S. futures were positive after Alcoa reported results after the close Tuesday, meeting expectations of quarterly earnings of six cents a share. Revenue of US$5.9 billion beat expectations by $300 million and Alcoa predicted a seven per cent increase in demand this year, slightly better than the six per cent increase in 2012.

Alcoa is viewed as a bellwether for the overall economy since its products are used in everything from cars to aircraft to appliances.

The Dow Jones industrials gained 23 points to 13,290, the Nasdaq futures were up 2.8 points to 2,716.8 while the S&P futures were ahead two points to 1,454.25.

Elsewhere in the resource sector, First Quantum Minerals Ltd. (TSX:FM) is sending its takeover offer for Inmet Mining Corp. (TSX:IMN) directly to the copper miner‘s shareholders. First Quantum said last month that it had increased its offer of $72 per Inmet share, half in cash, half in stock, for a total offer worth about $5.1 billion.<

Inmet's board rejected the initial $4.9 billion stock and cash offer in November. At the time, Inmet said the “highly conditional offer” was not in the best interest of its shareholders.

Commodity prices were mixed.

The February crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange drifted a dime lower to US$93.05 a barrel ahead of the weekly U.S. inventory report. Data for the week ended Jan. 4 is expected to show a rise of 1.5 million barrels for crude oil and an increase of 2.6 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos. The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration releases its crude inventories report later Wednesday.

March copper gained two cents to US$3.69 a pound while February bullion lost $2.30 to US$1,659.90 an ounce.

European bourses were mixed with London’s FTSE 100 index up 0.5 per cent.

Germany’s DAX added 0.15 per cent after official figures showed industrial production rose less than expected in November. The 0.2 per cent gain was also not enough to offset a two per cent fall the previous month and means economic output in Europe’s largest economy overall likely fell in the fourth quarter.

The Paris CAC 40 slipped 0.03 per cent.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.5 per cent after a downturn in the prior session, with sentiment helped by gains in mainland Chinese shares.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.7 per cent, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4 per cent, South Korea’s Kopsi was 0.3 per cent lower while mainland Chinese stocks were mixed.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2013
The Canadian Press

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