CANADA STOCKS-TSX may open lower after soft data; BlackBerry set to rise

Reuters

Feb 20 (Reuters) - Canadian stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Thursday following data showing a slide in China's factory activity and in France's service sector.

But shares of BlackBerry Ltd were set to jump after Facebook Inc's stunning $19 billion bid for fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp, with investors cheered by the lofty valuation for the messaging platform.

The deal put a rough valuation metric around the smartphone maker's own BlackBerry Messaging service.

TOP STORIES

* China's vast factory sector contracted again this month and the expected acceleration in euro zone business activity failed to materialise, highlighting the fragile state of the global economy.

* Facebook Inc will buy fast-growing mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock in a landmark deal that places the world's largest social network closer to the heart of mobile communications and may bring younger users into the fold.

* Loblaw Cos Ltd, Canada's largest grocer, reported a 9 percent drop in quarterly net profit due to a rise in interest expenses, and the company warned that the industry will remain "extremely competitive" in the first half of 2014.

* Wal-Mart Stores Inc reported a lower profit for the holiday quarter as comparable sales in the United States declined again.

* Miner Centerra Gold Inc reported a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit, hurt by lower realized gold prices.

MARKET SNAPSHOT

* Canada stock futures traded down 0.11 percent

* U.S. stock futures , , were down around 0.07 to 0.29 percent

* European shares, were down

COMMODITY PRICE MOVES

* Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB Index : 300.1847; fell 0.72 percent

* Gold futures : $1,309.9; fell 0.81 percent

* US crude : $102.92; fell 0.38 percent

* Brent crude : $109.7; fell 0.7 percent

* LME 3-month copper : $7,129.25; fell 0.72 percent

CANADIAN STOCKS TO WATCH

* Bombardier Inc : The company said on Wednesday it has obtained a first flight test permit for its delayed Learjet 85 from the Federal Aviation Administration and expects the aircraft's maiden voyage in "coming weeks."

* IamGold Corp : The gold miner swung to a quarterly loss as gold prices fell, and said its capital spending in 2014 would be 40 percent lower than last year as it had completed the expansion of a mine in West Africa.

* TransCanada Corp : A Nebraska court on Wednesday voided Governor Dave Heineman's decision to allow TransCanada's $5.4 billion Keystone XL pipeline to pass through the Midwestern state, creating another snag for the controversial project to link Canada's oil sands with refineries in Texas.

ANALYSTS' RECOMMENDATIONS

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

* Canadian Natural Resources Ltd : RBC raises target price to C$46 from C$43, says the company's agreement to acquire Devon Canada's assets will provide it critical mass in certain areas

* Rogers Communications Inc : CIBC cuts target price to C$42 from C$44 given the amount paid by the company for 22 paired spectrum licenses in the 700 MHz auction was above expectations

* Sherritt International Corporation : CIBC cuts price target to C$4.50 from C$5 based on the company's dismal fourth-quarter results and an absence of a cost guidance.

* TELUS Corp : CIBC raises target price to C$38 from C$37 to reflect its 16.6 MHz buy at the 700 MHz spectrum auction

* Tourmaline Oil Corp : CIBC raises price target to C$63 from C$57 citing the company's robust reserves growth with strong FD&A costs and increased its 2014 production outlook

ON THE CALENDAR

* No economic events scheduled for the day

* Major U.S. events and data include initial and continuing claims, consumer price index, manufacturing PMI and real earnings data

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