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People watch from above as traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on the morning of Jan. 2, 2013. (MICHAEL APPLETON/NYT)
People watch from above as traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on the morning of Jan. 2, 2013. (MICHAEL APPLETON/NYT)

Inside the Market

At the open: Indexes rise, hinting that two-day losing streak may end Add to ...

North American stock markets opened with modest gains, receiving some encouragement from Alcoa Inc.'s earnings report late Tuesday that pointed to further global economic growth in 2013.

In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 12 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 12,516; the S&P 500 was up 4 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 1,461; and the Dow Jones industrial average was up 46 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 13,375.

New York oil futures were up 14 cents at $93.29 (U.S.) per barrel and gold was up a mere 50 cents at $1,662.70.

The world's largest aluminum producer met analysts' forecasts in reporting income from continuing operations of 6 cents (U.S.) a share. But revenues were a bit better than expected and the company forecast aluminum demand in China, the largest consuming country, will rise 11 per cent this year - thanks in part to new stimulus spending by the nation's new leadership. Overall, it forecast global aluminum demand to rise 7 per cent. That's faster than 6 per cent growth that was seen for 2012, but doesn't exactly represent rapid acceleration in consumption patterns.

Alcoa shares this morning are in the green but hardly on fire, up by 0.9 per cent.

The report is only a tiny taste of what's to come as the earnings season gets fully underway next week with the U.S. big banks revealing their latest numbers. Forecasters expect earnings of $25.29 for this year’s fourth quarter from S&P 500 companies, just below the record high of $25.43 posted in the second quarter and well above the figure of $23.73 reported for the final three months of 2011.

There's little fresh economic news out today, but in the wee hours of Thursday morning, China will release its latest import and export numbers. They could be potential market movers, especially for commodities, given the focus recently on rebounding growth in the Chinese economy.

Here's a look at some other stocks moving on news this morning:

Herbalife shares are up 4 per cent after a regulatory file showed hedge fund manager Dan Loeb has taken a 5 per cent stake in the company. That pits him against Bill Ackman, who has heavily shorted the stock and has called its business a pyramid scheme.

Shaw Communications Corp. reported earnings per share of 50 cents, up from 43 cents a year ago, as revenues rose 3 per cent. The results beat analysts' forecasts and shares are up nearly 1 per cent in early trading.

TransCanada Corp. has been chosen by Progress Energy to build the proposed $5-billion Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project. Shares in Canada are up 0.5 per cent.

Clearwire Corp. shares are up 7 per cent after the wireless company received a buyout offer from Dish Network Corp. late Tuesday that was about 11 per cent higher than an earlier bid from Sprint Nextel.

Constellation Brands Inc., the world's largest branded wine company, reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings and raised its earnings forecast for the second time in a year. Shares rose nearly 3 per cent at the open.

Dollar General Corp. shares are down 0.6 per cent and Family Dollar Stores Inc. are down 1 per cent after RBC downgraded both stocks this morning to "sector perform," citing a less profitable sales mix ahead and an intensifying promotional environment.

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