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Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 22, 2013. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 22, 2013. (BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

At the open: Markets drift lower, Sears Holdings plunges Add to ...

U.S. and Canadian stock markets opened lower, with many investors choosing to take profits ahead of the Memorial Day long weekend instead of risking more equity exposure after the volatility seen on Thursday.

In early trading, the S&P 500 was down 8 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 1,643; the Dow Jones industrial average was down 38 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 15,255; and the S&P/TSX composite index was down 27 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 12,630.

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Major commodities were also lower, with the July crude oil futures contract in New York down 82 cents, or 0.9 per cent, at $93.40 (U.S.) per barrel; June gold down $5.30, or 0.3 per cent, at $1,386 per ounce; and copper down 0.4 per cent at $3.29 per pound.

European markets were also a little lower this morning, with the FTSE 100 and Germany's Dax both down 0.6 per cent. That followed a mixed performance in Asia overnight, with Japan's Nikkei index seeing wild swings of more than 3 per cent on both sides of unchanged before closing up just shy of 1 per cent. On Thursday, Japanese stocks plunged more than 7 per cent, as traders lost confidence in equity markets following a rise in bond yields, an unexpected dip in Chinese manufacturing and ambiguous signals from the Federal Reserve as to how long its massive bond-buying program will continue.

Japanese stocks in early trading today were making headway in paring some of Thursday's losses, but went into retreat after Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said the central bank had announced sufficient monetary easing and stated he has no target for the nation's equity and currency markets.

In Europe this morning, a focus was on a business confidence survey in Germany that showed a rise for the first time in three months. The Ifo institute's business climate index, which is based on feedback from 7,000 executives, rose to 105.7 in May from 104.4 in April, beating economists' expectations for a flat reading.

In the U.S., durable goods orders for April came in stronger than expected, helping to improve market sentiment. They rose 3.3 per cent, beating forecasts calling for a rise of 1.1 per cent. Excluding the transportation sector, orders rose 1.3 per cent, also beating forecasts calling for a rise of 0.5 per cent.

Monday is the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. It's likely markets will struggle to make gains today as many investors position themselves for the long weekend by taking some profits - especially after Thursday's market volatility served as a reminder that the climb of U.S. stocks into record territory won't go on forever.

Here's a look at some stocks on the move this morning:

Sears Holdings Corp. shares fell 16 per cent at the open after the U.S. retailer late Thursday reported a deep loss of $279-million in its latest quarter and a drop in revenues. It also said it was exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale.

Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. should see heavy trading after announcing this morning it struck a $520-million deal to sell its Allstream division to an investment firm controlled by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris. Shares opened up 4.5 per cent.

National Bank of Canada reported adjusted earnings that were up 6 per cent from a year ago, beating analysts' expectations, as it announced a dividend increase and share buyback. Shares opened up 0.8 per cent.

Proctor & Gamble Co. shares rose 4.2 per cent after announcing the appointment of Alan George Lafley as CEO. He was the CEO of the company from 2000 to 2009 and replaces outgoing CEO Robert McDonald.

Pandora Media Inc. late Thursday reported adjusted first-quarter losses of 10 cents a share as revenues beat Street expectations. Shares were up 10 per cent.

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