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Premarket: Dow set to end year on quiet note Add to ...

Global stocks moved slightly higher on Friday morning in the last trading day of 2011, in what looks set to be more of a whimper than a bang.

U.S. stock index futures were up with about 90 minutes before markets open, suggesting that stocks will rise at the start of trading. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average were up 7 points or less than 0.1 per cent. Futures for the broader S&P 500 were up 2 points or less than 0.2 per cent.

Both indexes scored big gains on Thursday, erasing Wednesday's setback, over some upbeat U.S. economic news and falling Italian bond yields during an auction of 10-year government bonds. However, the news on Friday is light, with no big U.S. or Canadian releases on tap.

In Europe, Germany's DAX index was up 0.4 per cent in afternoon trading. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 per cent in overnight trading. In China, the final reading on factory activity in December showed that activity is contracting: The HSBC purchasing mangers' survey came in at just 48.7, below the growth threshold of 50 and down from a flash reading of 48.7. The good news, though, is that the low reading is expected to shift Chinese authorities into a pro-growth mode to help stimulate the economy.

At least gold was set to deliver some sparkle before the year ticks down. Despite a ragged performance in recent days, putting the price of bullion at its lowest level since July, the price of gold showed some strength on Friday, rising to $1,569 (U.S.) an ounce, up $28.

Meanwhile, the Globe and Mail is reporting that activist investor Bill Ackman has recommended to the board of Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. that the railway's current chief executive be replaced by Hunter Harrison, the 67-year old who used to head rival Canadian National Railway until 2009.

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