North American stock markets appear set for some mild gains, with the Dow likely to push deeper into record-high territory with the support of data this morning showing some improvement in the U.S. jobless situation.
U.S. initial jobless claims last week came in at 340,000, a six-week low and less than the 355,000 that was forecast. The figures should provide a hint of what's to come Friday, when the U.S. releases its non-farm payrolls report for February, one of the most important economic indicators of the month.
The Bank of England and the European Central Bank this morning kept interest rates and asset-buying programs unchanged. Traders are now zeroing in on ECB President Mario Draghi's latest economic outlook at a news conference. So far, he has stated the economic weakness in the euro area extended into 2013 but a gradual economic recovery should commence in the second part of this year. He said the inflation outlook is allowing the bank's policy stance to remain accommodative.
The Dow, comprised of 30 blue chip stocks, closed at 14,296.24 on Wednesday and hit an intraday high of 14,320.65 - both records. The broader S&P 500 index is 24 points short of its record close from October of 2007. While the attention the rally is getting among the general population is likely encouraging more money to come back into equities, many veteran investors are growing cautious given global economies are still sluggish despite the help of quantitative easing measures and extraordinary low interest rates.
Now, here's a closer look at what is going on this morning.
U.S. futures: S&P 500 +0.2 per cent; Dow +0.2 per cent; Nasdaq +0.2 per cent
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index -0.03 per cent
Shanghai composite index -0.99 per cent
Japan's Nikkei +0.30 per cent
London’s FTSE 100 +0.43 per cent
Germany’s DAX +0.22 per cent
France's CAC 40 +0.43 per cent
Italy's FTSE MIB +0.30 per cent
WTI (Nymex Apr) +0.25 per cent at $90.66 (U.S.) a barrel
Gold (Comex Apr) +0.38 per cent at $1,580.90 (U.S.) an ounce
Copper (Comex May) +0.14 per cent at $3.50 (U.S.) a pound
Canadian dollar up 0.0014, or 0.14 per cent, at $0.9701 (U.S.)
ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:
Canada’s trade deficit narrowed to $237-million in January. Economists had looked for wider deficit of $600-million. Exports climbed 2.1 per cent during the month.
Canada building permits rose 1.7 per cent in January from December.
The U.S. trade deficit in January was $44.45-billion, a bit wider than the $43.0-billion economists had expected and 16 per cent higher than in December.
U.S. initial jobless claims last week was 340,000, less than the 355,000 that was forecast.
STOCKS TO WATCH:
Retail store chains are releases their latest sales.
Time Warner Inc. said late Wednesday it will spin off its magazine business later this year. Shares are up 1 per cent in the premarket.
PetSmart Inc. late Wednesday forecast earnings and revenues for this year that missed analysts' expectations. Shares are down 8 per cent in the premarket.
Dell Inc. said shareholder Carl Icahn has urged the company to pursue a leveraged recapitalization and pay a $9 per share dividend instead of going private. Shares are up 0.5 per cent in the premarket.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. is raising its quarterly dividend by 19 per cent to 12.5 cents per share. The oil producer also reported adjusted profit of 33 cents, missing Street forecasts for 39 cents.
Other earnings today include: adidas AG; Baytex Energy Corp.; Ciena Corp.; Denison Mines Corp.; Descartes Systems Group Inc.; H&R Block Inc.; Intertape Polymer Group Inc.; Kroger Co.; Petrobank Energy And Resources Ltd.; Resolute Energy Corp.; and Standard Life PLC
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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 @eyeonequitiesReport Typo/Error