U.S. and Canadian stock indexes opened with modest gains, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising just enough to hit another record intraday high.
In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 27 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 12,859 and the S&P 500 was up 4 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 1,545.
But many eyes continued to be on the Dow, which was up 38 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 14,334 - surpassing Wednesday's high during the trading day of 14,320.65.
Market sentiment got a boost this morning from U.S. first-time jobless claims data that came in at a six-week low, as well as commitments from central bankers in Europe to maintain economic stimulus measures. U.S. initial jobless claims last week came in at 340,000, less than the 355,000 that was forecast, and the monthly average of weekly claims is now at its lowest level in five years.
In other economic data this morning, the U.S. trade deficit in January was $44.45-billion, a bit wider than the $43.0-billion economists had expected and 16 per cent higher than in December.
While the attention the rally is getting among the general population is likely encouraging more money to flow back into equities, many veteran investors are growing cautious given global economies are still sluggish and still require the help of quantitative easing measures and extraordinary low interest rates.
Indeed, the Bank of England and the European Central Bank this morning kept interest rates and asset-buying programs unchanged. At a news conference, ECB President Mario Draghi's said the economic weakness in the euro area extended into 2013 but believes a gradual economic recovery should commence in the second part of this year. He said the inflation outlook is allowing the bank's policy stance to remain accommodative.
Here's a look at some stocks moving on news this morning:
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is raising its quarterly dividend by 19 per cent to 12.5 cents per share. The oil producer also reported adjusted profit of 33 cents, missing Street forecasts for 39 cents, but the stock still rose 1 per cent at the open.
Time Warner Inc. said late Wednesday it will spin off its magazine business later this year. The stock was up nearly 1 per cent.
PetSmart Inc. late Wednesday forecast earnings and revenues for this year that missed analysts' expectations. Shares were down 7 per cent at the open.
Dell Inc. said shareholder Carl Icahn has urged the company to pursue a leveraged recapitalization and pay a $9 per share dividend instead of going private. Shares were steady.
Retailers are releasing their sales figures for February. Results have been mixed so far, but Costco exceeded Street expectations in reporting comparable store sales rising 6 per cent. Costco shares were up 0.6 per cent at the open.