U.S. and Canadian stock indexes opened lower, as traders monitored the latest developments out of Cyprus and absorbed a series of U.S. economic reports.
In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 44 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 12,782; the S&P 500 was down 7 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 1,552; and the Dow Jones industrial average was down 56 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 14,451.
Markets had little reaction to a batch of U.S. economic data this morning. U.S. initial jobless claims rose last week by 2,000 to 336,000 - but below the 340, 000 new claims that economists were bracing for. The U.S. flash manufacturing purchasing managers' index rose to 54.9 in March from 54.3 in February - not a bad reading but a touch below the 55 number economists had predicted.
U.S. existing home sales rose 0.8 per cent in February from January, which is up 10.2 per cent from a year ago. That was its highest level in more than three years, but the fresh number was largely expected. The Philadelphia Fed March business conditions index, meanwhile, rose 2.0 per cent this month, a much better reading than the negative 12.5 in February.
The European Central Bank today set a Monday deadline for Cyprus to agree to a bailout plan. If it fails to do so, funding could be cut off to the country's cash-strapped banks, resulting in a financial meltdown that would create further economic upheaval in the euro zone.
The Cyprus government on Tuesday voted against a levy on bank deposits that was part of an earlier bailout plan. Cyprus's president is now working on a new plan to obtain the European bailout, and there are reports Cyprus politicians have agreed to set up an investment fund to do so.
Fresh data out of Europe overnight weren't lifting any spirits. The Markit preliminary composite purchasing-managers' index for the euro zone dropped to 46.5 in March from 47.9 in February (A level below 50 indicates a contraction in activity). Many had expected March's number to be higher than February; instead, the latest report suggests the downturn may be intensifying.
And while Germany has been a bright spot among European economies - relatively speaking - a separate purchasing managers' index for that country's manufacturing industry unexpectedly fell to 48.9 this month from 50.3 in February.
More upbeat was China's latest manufacturing purchasing managers' index. It rose to 51.7 in March from 50.4 in February, suggesting the sector in that country is expanding at a healthy clip. That news helped Chinese stocks rise modestly overnight.
Here's a look at some stocks moving on news so far today:
Lululemon Athletica Inc. reported quarterly profit of 75 cents a share, beating analysts’ estimates by 1 cent. Revenue rose to $485.5-million from $371.5-million, also a little above analysts’ expectations of $482.9 million. Shares edged up by 0.2 per cent at the open.
Marc Tellier is stepping down from his position as president and chief executive officer of Yellow Media Ltd. Shares held steady.
Research In Motion Ltd. said the BlackBerry 10 now offers more than 100,000 apps. Shares are up nearly 2 per cent, extending Wednesday's 7 per cent rally.
Oracle Corp. shares are down 8 per cent after the software maker reported much worse-than-expected revenues in its third quarter.
Yahoo Inc. shares are up 3.3 per cent after Oppenheimer upgraded the stock to "outperform" and raised its price target to $27 from $22.