CANADA STOCKS-TSX may open higher as investors await Fed decision

Reuters

Dec 18 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index looked set to open modestly higher on Wednesday as investors awaited the conclusion of a two-day U.S. Federal Reserve meeting to see if a recent string of strong economic data will lead the central bank to scale back its massive stimulus program.

TOP STORIES

* The Federal Reserve will decide whether the U.S. economy is finally resilient enough to withstand less policy support, or whether it is prudent to wait a bit longer.

* German business morale improved in December, hitting its highest since April 2012, another sign that growth in Europe's largest economy may accelerate next year after a relatively subdued 2013.

* Business sentiment among Asia's top companies dropped sharply in the fourth quarter, extending last quarter's declines, with global economic uncertainty and rising costs weighing on the region's firms, a Thomson Reuters/INSEAD survey showed.

* Britain's unemployment rate plunged to its lowest level in four-and-a-half years in October, approaching the Bank of England's threshold for considering a hike in interest rates at a far greater speed than expected.

* FedEx Corp posted higher quarterly profit as the shipping company cut costs and its express delivery segment, its biggest business, made more money.MARKET SNAPSHOT

* Canada stock futures traded up 0.34 percent

* U.S. stock futures , , were up around 0.12 percent to 0.25 percent

* European shares, were up COMMODITY PRICE MOVES

* Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB Index : 280.6546; rose 0.17 percent

* Gold futures : $1,236.6; rose 0.44 percent

* US crude : $97.42; rose 0.21 percent

* Brent crude : $108.51; rose 0.06 percent

* LME 3-month copper : $7,243.25; fell 0.48 percent CANADIAN STOCKS TO WATCH

* Barrick Gold Corp : The gold miner said in a surprise announcement on Tuesday that two long-time directors, Donald Carty and Robert Franklin, had resigned from the company's board with immediate effect.

* BlackBerry Ltd : The smartphone maker said on Tuesday that John Sims will join as head of its global enterprise services business, a key segment that is likely to be at the core of its turnaround plan

* Encana Corp : The natural gas producer, said on Tuesday it has hired marine services company SBM Offshore to operate the Deep Panuke platform off the coast of Nova Scotia.

* Imperial Oil Ltd : The integrated oil company filed for regulatory approvals for its C$7 billion Aspen thermal oil sands project, a company spokesman said.

* Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp : The private oil producer said it is targeting 15-20 percent growth in production in 2014. ANALYSTS' RECOMMENDATIONS

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

* Argonaut Gold Inc : BMO cuts target price to C$7.50 from C$9 to reflect a decline in estimated NPV due to the company's pre-feasibility study for its Magino project and falling gold prices

* Finning International Inc : RBC raises target price to C$30 from C$28, believes the company's focus on controllable internal factors to drive efficiency will result in lasting earnings growth opportunity

* TrueGold Mining Inc : BMO raises target price to 75 Canadian cents from 65 Canadian cents after the company released the results of an independent feasibility study of its Karma project ON THE CALENDAR

* Major Canadian economic data includes wholesale trade

* Major U.S. events and data includes housing starts and building permits

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