Toronto stock market to open little changed, Suncor Energy beats expectations

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Toronto stock market to open little changed, Suncor Energy beats expectations

TORONTO - The Toronto stock market looked to start the session little changed amid a strong earnings report from oilsands giant Suncor Energy (TSX:SU), while keeping an eye on developments in the Ukraine crisis.

Suncor posted operating earnings of $1.79 billion, or $1.22 per share, widely beating the average analyst expectation of 93 cents, according to estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters. Operating revenues, net of royalties, were $10.3 billion, up from $9.8 billion a year earlier. Net earnings, which account for one-time items, were nearly $1.49 billion, or $1.01 per share, up from $1.09 billion, or 72 cents per share.

The Canadian dollar was up 0.36 of a cent to 91.06 cents US.

New York futures advanced ahead of data coming out on consumer confidence and house prices with the Dow Jones industrial futures ahead 41 points to 16,438, the Nasdaq futures gained 14.5 points to 3,555.3 and the S&P 500 futures rose 5.2 points to 1,871.2.

Investors also looked to a string of major economic data coming out over the next three days.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve wraps up its two-day meeting. Policymakers are expected to further trim the central bank’s bond-buying program and provide further insight into the state of the world’s biggest economy.

Traders also look for further indications of when the Fed might start to raise short-term interest rates, which have been near zero since the financial crisis.

Further U.S. data reports come on Thursday, when preliminary economic data for the first quarter is released, and Friday, with the April non-farm payrolls report. Also out Thursday is China manufacturing data for April, which will provide an update on conditions in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Prices were mixed on the commodity markets with June crude in New York up 55 cents to US$101.39 a barrel.

July copper was down a cent to US$3.08.

Bullion prices were lower after the Pentagon said Russia's defence chief has assured U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel that Russia will not invade Ukraine.

That came after the U.S. and the European Union unveiled another series of sanctions targeted against Russian businessmen and companies. They say the penalties are being levied because Russia has failed to live up to commitments it agreed to under an international accord aimed at de-escalating the crisis in Ukraine.

Gold fell $9.50 to US$1,289.50 an ounce.

In other corporate developments, investors will be watching Quebecor Inc.’s (TSX:QBR.B) share performance as the media giant undergoes its second leadership change in little more than a year, with the announcement that its president and chief executive is retiring. Robert Depatie, who was promoted to the post last May when Pierre Karl Peladeau stepped down, announced Monday that he was retiring for health reasons.

Power generation company TransAlta (TSX:TA) handed in net earnings of $49 million, or 18 cents per share, up $60 million from a net loss of $11 million, or four cents per share, in the same period last year. Revenues were at $775 million, up from $540 million year-over-year.

Drug giant Merck said first-quarter profit rose seven per cent to $1.71 billion, or 57 cents per share, up from $1.59 billion, or 52 cents per share, a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, net income would have been $2.6 billion, or 88 cents per share. That was 9 cents better than analysts surveyed by FactSet expected. Revenue totalled $10.26 billion. Analysts expected $10.44 billion and its shares rose 0.6 per cent in pre-market trading in New York.

Organizations: Suncor Energy, TSX, U.S. Federal Reserve Dow Jones Pentagon European Union Quebecor Inc.s TransAlta FactSet

Geographic location: Toronto, Ukraine, U.S. New York Russia China

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