North American markets opened mixed, with the TSX posting small gains as the major U.S. indexes were losing ground. Suncor Energy Inc. was down about 4 per cent after a troubling quarterly report Tuesday night, while Research In Motion Ltd. shares erased earlier losses and were trading in positive territory for the third straight day.
In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 26 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 12,773; the S&P 500 was down 4 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 1,507; and the Dow Jones industrial average was down 47 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 13,931. Crude oil was coming under pressure, with the March futures contract in New York down $1.21, or 1.2 per cent, at $95.41 (U.S.) per barrel.
There wasn't a lot of fresh economic news to drive market sentiment. Instead, traders remained focused on whether the 2013 rally that brought U.S. stocks within spitting distance of all-time highs has further fuel left. European debt concerns flared up again this week ahead of elections shortly in Italy and political worries in Spain, a reminder that buying stocks is still a risk trade.
The Japanese market had a great day; the Nikkei soared 3.78 per cent overnight to more than four-year highs. A weaker yen - which helps to support the country's export sector - and hopes for aggressive easing measures from the country's central bank, made for the impressive rally. It was the Nikkei's biggest gain in almost a year, and was led mostly by banks and exporters.
The U.S. dollar rose as high as about 94 yen, its highest level since 2010, after Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said late Tuesday that he would step down from his post on March 19 to coincide with the departure of two deputy governors. That was a few weeks ahead of his term ending, and some interpreted the news as meaning an accelerated monetary policy easing plan could be in the works. Candidates for the position will be revealed later this month and they are expected to all support additional easing to some degree.
Closer to home, more corporate earnings are pouring out today. The fourth quarter has been strong overall - with 74 per cent of companies in the S&P 500 index beating analysts' estimates, according to Bloomberg data.
Here's a look at some of the earnings, as well as other corporate news, moving stocks today:
Research In Motion Ltd. shares are up 1.6 per cent after gaining 6.3 per cent on Tuesday amid signs of strong demand in Canada and the U.K. for its new BlackBerry 10 products. Canaccord Genuity this morning is taking a bearish stance on the stock, reiterating its "sell" rating and $9 (U.S.) price target, arguing that product sellouts in the U.K. had more to do with limited supplies hitting store shelves.
Suncor Energy Inc. has taken a writedown of nearly $1.5-billion on its Voyageur project, a massive oil sands plant that is now at serious risk of cancellation. It's also facing a $1.2-billion tax bill. Shares are down 4 per cent.
WestJet Airlines Ltd. reported net earnings of 46 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter on revenue of $860.6 million. That was up more than 70 per cent from net earnings of 26 cents per share on revenue of $781.5-million in the same 211 period. WestJet shares are up 1.3 per cent.
TMX Group Ltd, operator of the Toronto Stock Exchange, reported fourth-quarter profit of $32.8-million, or 61 cents a share, or 95 cents excluding one-time items. Shares opened up 3.4 per cent.
Husky Energy Inc. reported adjusted net income of 50 cents per share in the fourth quarter, six cents below the Street expectation. Shares opened down 1.5 per cent.
Time Warner reported adjusted net profits in the fourth quarter of $1.17, beating analyst views of $1.10. Shares are up 4 per cent.
Liberty Global Inc. late Tuesday agreed to buy U.K. telecom and pay TV firm Virgin Media Inc. in a $23.3-billion deal. Virgin Media shares are down 2 per cent.
Disney reported a 5.6 per cent dip in quarterly profits, but it was enough to beat analyst expectations and shares are up 1.4 per cent.
Zynga reported quarterly results and revenue well ahead of Street expectations. Shares are up 2 per cent.