By Patricia Zengerle and Marc Frank

WASHINGTON/HAVANA (Reuters) -- President Barack Obama's administration is drafting sweeping regulations to ease restrictions on U.S. companies doing business with Cuba and make it easier for Americans to travel to the island, U.S. government sources said on Thursday.

The regulations, to be announced as soon as Friday, include allowing U.S. companies to establish subsidiaries with Cuba, possibly via joint ventures with Cuban firms such as the Etecsa telecommunications monopoly, they said.

The rules would also allow general licenses for ferries and cruise ships to stop in Cubarather than requiring them to apply for specific licenses, they said.

There was no immediate comment from the administration.

The regulations would expand on moves that Obama announced in January to ease the decades-long embargo of the Communist-ruled island. He and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17 they would move toward normal relations between the former Cold War foes for the first time in half a century.

Although legislation seeking to ease commercial ties between the two countries has support from Democrats and some Republicans, efforts to pass bills that would ease trade and travel restrictions have been stymied by stiff opposition from Republican congressional leaders.

Given lawmakers' stiff resistance, Obama is using executive powers to ease the trade barriers.

The administration was drafting the new regulations as Jose Cabanas, a veteran diplomat, on Thursday became Cuba's first ambassador to the United States in 54 years.

Washington has yet to name an ambassador to Cuba.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington and Dan Trotta and Marc Frank in Havana; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)