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TSX Poised For Mixed Open; Astral Media In Focus - Canadian Commentary

Canadian stocks are poised for a mixed open Friday amid varied cues from the commodities and global equity markets. While most Asian markets ended lower overnight, European shares were hovering in positive territory.

Media and telecoms stocks may be in focus amid deal making in the sector, while gold stocks are likely to remain under pressure amid falling bullion prices.

U.S. stock futures were pointing to a marginally higher open.

On Thursday, the S&P/TSX Composite Index gained 77.92 points or 0.63 percent to 12,455.82.

In the commodity market, the price of crude oil was steady above $105, with crude for April adding $0.55 to $105.66 a barrel.

The price of gold was moving lower Friday morning as the U.S. dollar was steady amid inflation data. Gold for April lost $13.90 to $1,645.60 an ounce.

In corporate news from Canada, telecommunications company BCE Inc. (BCE.TO) announced that Bell is acquiring Montréal-based Astral Media Inc. (ACM_A.TO, ACM_B.TO) for about $3.38 billion, including net debt of $380 million.

Oil and natural gas company TransAtlantic Petroleum (TNP.TO) reported a wider fourth quarter net loss of $66.94 million compared to the loss of $30.2 million a year ago. Net loss from continuing operations was $54.5 million or $0.15 per share versus loss of $17.2 million or $0.05 per share last year.

Industrial wood products company Stella-Jones Inc. (SJ.TO) announced a higher fourth quarter profit of C$13.4 million or C$0.83 per share compared to last year's C$10.7 million or C$0.67 per share. Analysts were expecting the company to report earnings of C$0.72 per share. Further, the company declared a quarterly dividend of C$0.15 per share.

In economic news, Statistics Canada said manufacturing sales declined 0.9 percent to $49.6 billion in January, with decrease in production in the aerospace product and parts industry overshadowing higher sales in the motor vehicle (assembly) and motor vehicle parts industries.

In a separate report, the agency said foreign investors reduced their holdings of Canadian securities by $4.2 billion in January after a cumulative acquisition of $55.1 billion in the previous six months, while Canadian investors acquired foreign securities for a ninth straight month as they added $1.3 billion to their holdings.

From the U.S, the Labor Department said its consumer price index rose by 0.4 percent in February following a 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists had expected the index to increase by about 0.5 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, the core consumer price index edged up by 0.1 percent in February compared to a 0.2 percent increase in the previous month.

Elsewhere, euro zone merchandise trade balance slipped to a deficit in January, and exceeded economists' forecast, data released by statistical office Eurostat showed. The trade balance was a deficit of EUR7.6 billion in January, compared to a surplus of EUR9.1 billion in December, which was revised down from EUR9.7 billion. Economists were looking for a deficit of EUR3 billion in January.

by RTT Staff Writer

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