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Trader Andrew Silverman, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)
Trader Andrew Silverman, left, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)

Inside the Market

At the open: Markets trying to claw back, but gains are slim Add to ...

North American stock markets opened modestly higher after a busy early morning full of fresh readings on the U.S. and Canadian economies as well as on the corporate sector.

Stock markets are trying to claw their way back after Wednesday's pounding that saw the Dow Jones industrial average suffer its harshest losses of the year. So far, they are only partly succeeding.

In early trading, the S&P/TSX index was up 13 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 12,243; the S&P 500 was up 5 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 1,399; and the Dow Jones industrial average was up 36 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 12,968.

Aiding the gains are thoughts that Wednesday's post-election sell-off might have left bargains to be had in some individual securities. Greece also lifted spirits by passing a new round of austerity measures late Wednesday that was required for the country to receive a fresh batch of aid, a critical step to pull itself out of its despair.

And economic reports this morning were quite positive. Canadian exports climbed 1.9 per cent in September, while imports were flat, narrowing Canada’s trade deficit to $826-million from $1.5-billion in August. There were stronger signs in the United States, meanwhile, as its trade gap narrowed, surprisingly, and exports hit a record after three months of losses.

Meanwhile, both the European Central Bank and the Bank of England held back from any interest rate changes today. ECB chief Mario Draghi hasn't said anything startling in a news conference this morning, sticking to rather familiar comments that the euro zone economy is showing little sign of recovering before year-end.

Wall Street's big plunge on Wednesday was pegged mainly to concerns that the U.S. elections -- which essentially made for a status quo government, with Barack Obama at the helm and Congressional power split between Republicans and Democrats -- did little to alleviate concerns over the "fiscal cliff." That's the more than $600-billion in tax hikes and spending cuts that are looming for the end of this year unless Congress reaches agreement on a deficit-cutting plan. Markets are likely to be vulnerable to political comments and negotiations in coming days from either U.S. party.

Here's a rundown of some of the other economic and corporate news developments so far today:

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said the pace of housing starts slowed in October, with a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 204,107 starts. That's down from an annual rate of 223,995 recorded in September. Meanwhile, Statistics Canada said the new housing price index in September rose 2.4 per cent. Economists had expected an annual rise of 2.3 per cent.

The U.S. said jobless claims for last week fell 8,000 to 355,000. That was below the 363,000 the previous week and the 370,000 that economists had expected.

Frank Stronach, who founded Magna International Inc. and guided its growth to a global powerhouse, is resigning from the company’s board of directors.

Manulife Financial Corp. reported a $227-million third-quarter loss Thursday, after taking a $1-billion charge. Shares are unchanged.

Air Canada said third profit was $429-million or $1.54 per share, compared to a loss of $124-million or 45 cents in the year-earlier period. Shares are up 1.0 per cent.

Tim Hortons Inc. reported an increase in quarterly profit on Thursday, helped by higher sales and a lower effective tax rate, but warned that a weaker economic environment was holding back growth. Shares are down 2.5 per cent.

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. had $360-million of net income in the third quarter or 33 cents per share, down from $753-million or 68 cents per share a year earlier. Shares are down 3.4 per cent.

Sun Life Financial Inc. turned around a year-ago loss to report a profit in its latest quarter and beat analysts’ expectations as equity markets rebounded. Shares are up 3.6 per cent.

Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. had $40.8 million of net income in the third quarter, up from $37 million a year earlier.

Wendy's said its net loss widened in the third quarter as it paid off debt, but noted that a key sales figure rose. Not including one-time items, Wendy's says it earned 3 cents per share. Analysts expected 5 cents. Shares are up 4.8 per cent.

McDonald’s Corp. reported a 1.8 per cent drop in October sales at established restaurants around the world, its first monthly sales fall in nine years, hurt by stiff competition in a weak economy. Shares are down 0.7 per cent.

Research In Motion shares are up 2.5 per cent in early trading after plunging 9 per cent on Wednesday. It received crucial U.S. security certification for its BlackBerry 10 phones.

Oppenheimer analysts are calling shares in Apple oversold and say it's time to buy. But shares are down 0.3 per cent at the open.


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