North American markets are set for a slightly firmer open this morning, but still appear fragile after last week's bruising that saw the S&P 500 fall more than 2 per cent.
Concerns about the "fiscal cliff" loom large in the minds of traders and whether Congress will be able to avert the more than $600-billion (U.S.) in tax increases and spending cuts at the start of next year.
Given widespread expectations that the Republicans and Democrats should be able to squeak out an agreement of some kind, last week's sell-off may seem overdone.
But that's not the only concern facing markets. Europe remains a sour point, and some fresh developments on that front are expected today when euro-area finance ministers meet. They will likely agree to prevent Greece from defaulting on 5 billion euros of bonds that expire later this week, but may stop short of approving the $40-billion (U.S.) of financial aid requested by the country. Greece took a step towards receiving that aid earlier today by passing its 2013 budget.
Overnight markets were mixed, with Japan down nearly 1 per cent after the country reported its gross domestic product fell 0.9 per cent in the July-September period, or 3.5 per cent on an annualized basis. That was its first contraction of the year.
Economic data out of China was more uplifting, as further signs emerged that the country's economic pace is starting to pick up again. Its trade surplus widened to $32-billion (U.S.) in October from $27.7-billion the previous month, with exports rising 11.6 per cent. Both those figures beat economists' expectations.
Volumes could be a little thinner than usual today. Bond markets and government offices are closed in both Canada and the U.S. in observance of Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, although stock markets are open as usual.
Now, here's the rundown of what else you need to know this morning.
Futures: Dow +0.2 per cent, S&P 500 +0.3 per cent, Nasdaq +0.4 per cent
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index +0.21 per cent
Shanghai composite index +0.48 per cent
Japan’s Nikkei -0.93 per cent
London’s FTSE 100 +0.32 per cent
Germany’s DAX +0.20 per cent
France's CAC 40 -0.08 per cent
WTI (Nymex Dec) -0.23 per cent at $85.87 (U.S.) a barrel
Gold (Comex Dec) +0.31 per cent at $1,736.30 (U.S.) an ounce
Copper (Comex Dec) +0.36 per cent at $3.46 (U.S.) a pound
Canadian dollar up 0.0019, or 0.19 per cent, at 1.0006 (U.S.)
STOCKS AND ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:
Research In Motion Ltd. said it planned to introduce its long-delayed BlackBerry 10 platform and devices on Jan. 30. It had earlier said the new software would make its premier sometime in the first quarter, although some analysts had speculated it would miss that deadline.
Retailer Leon’s Furniture Ltd. is acquiring archrival the Brick Ltd. for about $700-million in a friendly deal.
Caterpillar shares may come under pressure after JPMorgan downgraded the stock today to "neutral" from "overweight," the first time it was not recommending the stock since April of 2009. It's concerned about reduced capital expenditures in the mining sector.
Earnings today include: DR Horton Inc.; Jaguar Mining Inc.; New Flyer Industries Inc.; Petrobank Energy And Resources Ltd.; and Total Energy Services Inc.
THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:
Bill Gross, who runs the world’s biggest bond fund, has increased his holdings of Treasuries for the first time since April.
Credible people are noticing that the chart of the past year looks eerily similar to the one prior to the 1987 crash.
Why Peter Lynch may have offered some of the worst advice in history when he famously recommended that investors "invest in what they know."
Traditionally, the yield curve was an excellent warning signal about recessions. Don't count on it this time around.
U.S. homebuilder stocks may have seen a false breakout on the charts, leading to losses to come.
For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities