U.S. and Canadian stock indexes opened higher, but a lot of uncertainty was in the air as the clock ticked down to a Monday deadline for Cyprus to come up with legislation that can avoid the island nation's financial meltdown.
The Cypriot parliament was expected to vote later today on a revamped proposal for an international bailout, but events were unfolding quickly and unpredictably.
In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 28 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 12,775; the S&P 500 was up 6 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 1,552; and the Dow Jones industrial average was up 54 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 14,478. European markets were slightly positive.
Gold stocks were under pressure at the TSX, as bullion prices were down about 0.5 per cent in New York at $1,606 (U.S.). Barrick Gold and Kinross Gold were both down about 0.7 per cent.
Cyprus's lawmakers have been working on legislation to help win a bailout from European leaders after the country's parliament earlier this week rejected a proposal that would have included an unprecedented levy on personal bank deposits. They face a Monday deadline to come up with a new plan, or risk possible default of loans that could spiral into the country's forced exit from the euro zone
Russia, which lent the country €2.5-billion two years ago, could represent a potential source of finance for Cyprus. But those talks concluded unsuccessfully earlier today. A banking deal today between Greece and Cyprus eased some concerns. Under the deal, Greece would takeover local units of stricken Cypriot banks, which would shield Greek banks for any fallout while giving Cyprus the ability to shrink its troublesome banking sector.
There's still speculation that Cyprus could re-float a proposal that would see a bank levy on personal deposits as part of a new funding package as it scrambles to raise €5.8-billion by Monday. The uncertainty has already created long lineups outside the country's ATM machines, as Cyprus citizens try to protect as much cash as possible.
Despite the threat that Cyprus could ignite a fresh euro zone crisis, there's little panic selling here in North America, as many traders are betting on the kind of last-minute deal with EU leaders that has helped stave off previous crises in the region.
Meanwhile, traders are finding encouragement in the latest developments on the U.S. fiscal front, as the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill that will fund the federal government through September. That prevents what could have been a government shutdown starting next week – not a market friendly event.
Here's a look at some stocks moving on news this morning:
Research In Motion Ltd. launches its new BlackBerry Z10 smartphone in the U.S. today as AT&T kicks off sales of the units. Shares of RIM are up 3.7 per cent, bringing its gains for the week to more than 10 per cent.
Nike Inc. shares opened up nearly 10 per cent after the shoe maker reported better-than-expected earnings late Thursday.
Tiffany & Co. shares are up 3.5 per cent after the company's quarterly earnings topped estimates and said full-year revenue should rise 6 to 8 per cent.
European Union antitrust regulators are looking into complaints from telecom carriers that contracts under which Apple Inc. sells its iPhone restrict competition, The New York Times reported today. But Apple shares are up 0.4 per cent.
Stella-Jones Inc., a Quebec-based maker of pressure-treated wood products, is increasing its dividend 25 per cent after closing out a record year in terms of sales and net income. But its shares opened down 1 per cent.