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Premarket: Potash shares jump on Uralkali arrest Add to ...

Stock futures are drifting a little lower ahead of the Monday opening bell, with markets not showing much momentum in either direction.

Traders remain fixated on whether the Federal Reserve will soon begin scaling back its $85-billion-a-month bond-buying program, and disappointing U.S. home sales data on Friday - as well as weaker-than-expected durable goods orders today - suggest that the central bank will be in no rush to curtail stimulus measures. For now, the majority of economists still expect the "tapering" process to start next month, but it's far from a unanimous view.

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The Fed's conference near Jackson Hole, Wyo., over the past few days didn't shed much fresh light on the matter. Chairman Ben Bernanke didn't attend the meeting, and other Fed officials were sounding pretty cautious in making definitive statements on when the stimulus taps would start to be turned off.

In Asian trading, the Shanghai market was a notable mover overnight, rising nearly 2 per cent on optimism that growth rates in the Chinese economy are picking up steam again.

Now, here's a closer look at what's going on this morning and what's to come.

MARKETS:

Equities:

Futures: S&P 500 -0.10 per cent; Dow -0.15 per cent; Nasdaq -0.02 per cent; S&P Toronto -0.14 per cent

Hong Kong's Hang Seng +0.65 per cent

Shanghai composite index +1.87 per cent

Japan's Nikkei -0.18 per cent

London’s FTSE 100 Closed for holiday

Germany’s DAX -0.36 per cent

France's CAC 40 -0.68 per cent

Commodities:

WTI crude oil (Nymex Oct) +0.03 per cent at $106.45 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Dec) -0.03 per cent at $1,395.40 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Dec) +0.43 per cent at $3.37 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar at 95.03 (U.S.), down 0.0004 from Friday's North American close.

U.S. dollar index up 0.05 at 81.41

Bonds:

U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.82 per cent, down 0.002

ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:

U.S. durable goods orders fell 7.3 per cent in July, a steeper fall than the 4 per cent projected by economists. The decline was mostly a result of weak orders from civilian aircraft.

(10:30 a.m. ET) U.S. releases the August Dallas Fed manufacturing survey, with the index forecast to rise to 4.5 from 4.4 in July.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Shares in potash producers are getting a lift this morning on news that the head of Russian producer Uralkali has been detained in Belarus on suspicion of abusing his position and official powers. Shares in potash producers dove earlier this summer after the collapse of a joint sales pact between the two parties, which had pressured potash prices. Traders are speculating that the latest move may be an attempt to force Uralkali back into the cartel. Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan shares are up 4.1 per cent in the premarket and Mosaic Co. is up 3.7 per cent. Agrium Inc. is up 3 per cent.

Amgen Inc. struck a deal to buy cancer drug maker Onyx Pharmaceuticals Inc. for about $10.4-billion on Sunday, ending a two-month-long auction of Onyx. Onyx shares are up 6 per cent in the premarket and Amgen 4 per cent.

Onex Corp. said it plans to sell its remaining stake in TMS International Corp. for about $172-million.

Microsoft Corp. shares will be in the spotlight again after surging more than 7 per cent on Friday upon the announcement that CEO Steve Ballmer plans to retire.

Brookfield Asset Management said it will pay $905-million to AIG in connection with the termination of a swap agreement.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:

BlackBerry’s financial strategy was not particularly unusual, but it does stand out in the way it abused the rules on executive stock options, writes Floyd Norris of the New York Times.

Any sizable decline in U.S. corporate profits would almost certainly translate into big losses for the stock market.                                     

Skip the drama when it comes to Microsoft: corporate governance is more important than the CEO.

There's a fire sale going on in closed end funds that hold U.S. municipal bonds.

Expecting to outperform the markets by 4 to 5 per cent? You're dreaming.

Why a Twitter IPO would be very different from the Facebook one.

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The premarket report is constantly updated to reflect the latest news developments and market moves. For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities. You can also be notified using our dashboard feature when new articles appear from this author. Read more on using this feature here.

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