CANADA STOCKS-TSX flat as investor caution offsets TransCanada gains
* TSX rises 5.13 points, or 0.04 percent, to 12,509.94 * TransCanada shares rise 2 percent * First Quantum shares drop nearly 4 percent amid takeover battle By John Tilak Jan 9 (Reuters) - Canada's main stock index was little changed on Wednesday as optimism on Alcoa Inc's outlook and a rise in TransCanada Corp shares after the company won a large contract were tempered by caution about the outlook for global growth. TransCanada shares rose 2 percent to C$48.22 after the country's largest pipeline operator revealed plans to build a C$5 billion line for Progress Energy Canada in British Columbia. However, the gains in the market were kept in check as investors remained wary about the fiscal situation in the United States and ahead of policy meetings of European central banks. Investors are keeping a close eye on whether the fiscal cliff talk in the fourth quarter affected earnings numbers and on the projections companies will be making, said Elvis Picardo, strategist and vice president of research at Global Securities in Vancouver. "This is the first indication we are going to get from many of the bellwether companies about how they see 2013 shaping up," he said. Alcoa, the largest aluminum producer in the United States, said on Tuesday it expects demand for the metal to grow in 2013, helped in part by strong sales to aerospace and construction customers. "It's Alcoa's earnings yesterday that's setting the mood. If the earnings season can show itself as relatively positive or better-than-expected, the mood can really solidify on that," said Serge Pepin, vice president of investment strategy at BMO Asset Management Canada. At midafternoon, the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index was up 5.13 points, or 0.04 percent, at 12,509.94. Six of the 10 main sectors on the index were down. "Though we've gone through averting the fiscal cliff, investors still feel anxious about the first quarter of this year. Europe has not gone away, although we're seeing some stability there," Pepin said. Spain and Italy will hold their first debt sales of the year on Thursday, revealing the depth of demand for peripheral euro zone debt. The Spanish auction could also offer clues on the timing of a much-anticipated request by the government for international financial aid. The materials sector, which includes mining stocks, shed 0.2 percent, with gold and silver prices slipping. "Commodities continue to be a drag. As a result, the TSX has begun the year looking like it's probably going to lag the S&P 500 for the third year running," Picardo said. "Commodity prices are caught in a slump. But that is unlikely to improve until we have concrete evidence of a turnaround in the global economy," he added. Miner Goldcorp Inc was down 1.7 percent, at C$35.22, and Kinross Gold fell 1.7 percent to C$9.23. First Quantum Minerals Ltd gave back 3.7 percent to C$20.74 after the Canadian base metal miner took its takeover bid for smaller rival Inmet Mining Corp to the target company's shareholders. The energy sector was down slightly as TransCanada's gains were offset by a 1.3 percent fall in Enbridge Inc and a 1.2 percent decline in Canadian Natural Resources. Oil prices also fell and weighed on the group.