CANADA STOCKS-TSX set to open higher, eye on BMO, Bernanke
Feb 26 (Reuters) - Canadian stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Tuesday, helped by higher-than-expected results and a dividend increase from Bank of Montreal, with investors also looking ahead to testimony from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
* Bank of Montreal on Tuesday reported its quarterly profit eased as lower loan recoveries at its U.S. retail bank offset higher wholesale banking and wealth management profits.
* The Italian stock market fell and state borrowing costs rose on Tuesday as investors took fright at political deadlock after a stunning election that saw a comedian's protest party lead the poll and no group secure a clear majority in parliament.
* Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke faces the first of two days of congressional testimony that will subject the Fed's controversial bond-buying program to tough scrutiny and gauge his confidence in the resilience of the U.S. economy.
* Nexen Inc : The contentious $15.1 billion takeover of Canadian oil and gas company Nexen Inc by Chinese state-owned entity CNOOC Ltd closed on Monday, more than seven months after China's largest-ever foreign takeover was announced.
* Improvements in the U.S. housing market and sales tied to Hurricane Sandy helped Home Depot Inc report a higher-than-expected quarterly profit and outshine rival Lowe's Cos Inc for the 15th straight quarter.
* Canada stock futures traded up 0.03 percent
* U.S. stock futures , , were up around 0.3 percent
* European shares, were down
COMMODITY PRICE MOVES
* Thomson Reuters-Jefferies CRB Index : 293.2917; fell 0.34 percent
* Gold futures : $1,589; rose 0.18 percent
* US crude : $92.46; fell 0.7 percent
* Brent crude : $113.34; fell 0.96 percent
* LME 3-month copper : $7,809; fell 0.34 percent
CANADIAN STOCKS TO WATCH
* First Majestic Silver Corp : The company, which backed out of a bidding war for Orko Silver Corp last week, said fourth-quarter profit rose 5 percent on higher production.
Following is a summary of research actions on Canadian companies reported by Reuters.
* Aurora Oil & Gas Ltd : CIBC raises to sector outperformer from sector performer on valuation based on strong growth and internal cash flow.
* Bankers Petroleum Ltd : RBC raises to outperform from sector perform, says the company looks set to grow with higher production and healthy realizations.
* North American Palladium Ltd : CIBC cuts price target to C$1.90 from C$2.
* Paramount Resources Ltd : CIBC raises to sector outperformer from sector performer on valuation.
ON THE CALENDAR
* No major Canadian economic data scheduled for release
* Major U.S. events and data includes consumer confidence, new home sales and Richmond Fed manufacturing
- Housing, jobs data weaken, but overall economic picture still upbeat
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