Jan 3 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index looked set to open lower, mirroring Wall Street futures, as investors look ahead to negotiations on the U.S. debt limit and spending cuts, halting the gains that followed a deal to avoid sharp tax hikes.
* President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans face even bigger budget battles in the next two months after a hard-fought "fiscal cliff" deal narrowly averted devastating tax increases and spending cuts.
* A major pipeline expansion that aims to ease the bottleneck at Cushing, Oklahoma that has depressed U.S. crude prices should pump at full rates from the end of next week, the backers of the project said on Wednesday.
* Imperial Oil Ltd's Kearl oil sands project in northern Alberta could start commercial production in the coming weeks after a previous target was delayed from the end of December, a company spokesman said on Wednesday.
* Numbers of Germans out of work rose for the ninth month running in December but held close to a post-reunification low, adding to signs Europe's largest economy remains relatively unscathed by the region's crisis.
* Growth in China's increasingly important services sector accelerated in December at its fastest pace in four months, adding to signs of a modest year-end revival in the world's second-largest economy.
* British construction output contracted at the fastest rate in six months in December, driven by a steep reduction in house building, a survey showed.
* Canada stock futures traded down 0.13 percent
* U.S. stock futures , , were down around 0.19 percent
* European shares, were down
COMMODITY PRICE MOVES
* Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB Index : 297.5003; fell 0.17 percent
* Gold futures : $1,678; fell 0.59 percent
* US crude : $92.73; fell 0.42 percent
* Brent crude : $112.14; fell 0.29 percent
* LME 3-month copper : $8,163; fell 0.56 percent
Following is a summary of research actions on Canadian companies reported by Reuters.
* Africa Oil Corp : Canaccord Genuity cuts price target to C$8 from C$13.50 citing potentially negative catalysts relating to well results, flow tests, elections in Kenya, and potential changes to existing contracts.
* AuRico Gold : CIBC raises target price to C$9 from C$7 on valuation impact generated by the Ocampo divestiture and planned share buyback program.
* Canadian Energy Services : RBC raises target price to C$13 from C$12 as the company announced the acquisition of Mega Fluids Mid-Continent LLC and growth prospect in North America.
ON THE CALENDAR
* No major Canadian economic data scheduled for release
* Major U.S. events and data includes ADP employment, initial claims, auto sales and FOMC minutes