It's an active morning of macroeconomic developments and corporate news, but markets are largely treading water so far. U.S. stock index futures are near unchanged as overseas markets provide little fresh direction.
The clock is ticking down to the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to take hold at the start of next year in the U.S., the so-called "fiscal cliff." The market is looking for any sign of progress in the negotiations, and on Wednesday it got a small hint that there's reason for optimism. A few dozen Republicans joined a bipartisan push to reach an agreement in time by signing a letter calling for openness to "all options." It was enough to spark a minor rally on Wall Street.
The Bank of England, as widely expected, kept its key lending rate unchanged this morning at a record low. Bigger news came out of Europe from the European Central Bank. While leaving its interest rates unchanged, the ECB slashed its forecasts for the euro zone economy, showing a contraction next year was very likely before a return to growth in 2014. The ECB cut its estimate of gross domestic product for next year to between a fall of 0.9 per cent and growth of just 0.3 per cent.
The German stock market was a bright spot overnight, as traders there had some positive economic news to digest. German factory orders surged almost four times as much as economists forecast in October, getting a boost from foreign demand. Orders jumped 3.9 per cent from September when adjusted for seasonal swings and inflation.
Now, here's a look at what else investors need to know this morning.
U.S. futures: S&P 500 -0.2 per cent; DJIA -0.1 per cent; Nasdaq -0.3 per cent
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index -0.09 per cent
Shanghai composite index -0.14 per cent
Japan's Nikkei +0.80 per cent
London’s FTSE 100 +0.13 per cent
Germany’s DAX +0.96 per cent
France's CAC 40 +0.07 per cent
WTI (Nymex Jan) +0.02 per cent at $87.90 (U.S.) a barrel
Gold (Comex Feb) +0.03 per cent at $1,694.30 (U.S.) an ounce
Copper (Comex Mar) +0.37 per cent at $3.67 (U.S.) a pound
Canadian dollar up 0.0003, or 0.03 per cent, at 1.0084 (U.S.)
STOCKS AND ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:
Statistics Canada said building permits in October unexpectedly rose 15 per cent from September. Economists had expected a monthly increase of only 2 per cent, although permits had plunged 12.7 per cent in September from August.
U.S. new jobless claims last week fell 25,000 to 370,000. That was less than the 380,000 economists predicted.
Toronto-Dominion Bank announced that it will be paying about $668-million (U.S.) to take over U.S. asset manager Epoch Holding Corp., as the bank unveiled fourth-quarter profits of $1.597-billion (Canadian), a slight increase over the $1.589-billion profit it reported in the same period a year ago.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce said profit rose 13 per cent in its fourth quarter, or adjusted profit of $2.04 per share, which beat expectations of about $1.98.
National Bank of Canada raised its dividend after reporting a 20-per-cent increase in fourth-quarter profit Thursday, making it the only Big Six Canadian bank to boost its payout so far.
Lululemon Athletica Inc. reported a jump in profit and sales on Thursday but forecast a sharp deceleration in sales growth in established stores Shares are down nearly 5 per cent in the premarket.
Other earnings today include: ADF Group Inc.; H&R Block Inc.; Harry Winston Diamond Corp.; Smith & Wesson Holding Corp.; Smithfield Foods Inc.; and Transcontinental Inc.
Loblaw Cos. Ltd. said it wants to unlock values for shareholders and maximize the value of its real estate portfolio by establishing a REIT that will go public by the middle of 2013.
Rona Inc. is moving to streamline its business and sell off non-core assets.
Bombardier Inc. said Delta Air Lines Inc placed firm orders for 40 NextGen jets, with the option to buy another 30, in a deal valued at up to $3.29 billion.
Apple shares are down another half a percent in the premarket after tumbling nearly 6.4 per cent, their steepest fall in more than a year, on Wednesday.
Zynga Inc. shares are up about 7 per cent in premarket action as the Wall Street Journal reports the game maker has filed the preliminary paperwork to secure a Nevada gaming licence.
BHP Billiton is considering a cash bid of $55 (U.S.) per share for U.S. coal producer Walter Energy Inc., according to the U.K.'s Daily Mail. Walter's shares are up 7 per cent in the premarket.
THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:
Those who are developing mobile apps for RIM"s new BlackBerry 10 are pretty darn hard to find - at least in New York.
Five reasons why Apple shares have been selling off.
Notwithstanding the widely held belief that the market performs poorly in the first year of a president’s term, there is precious little evidence for such a notion.
Pimco's Bill Gross on his latest picks and pans for investors.
Why bond funds are riskier than bonds.
A screen of attractive U.S. dividend stocks.
Recent data on China’s rail freight traffic suggests that official numbers showing a Chinese economic recovery might not have been fictional after all. That’s an optimistic sign for investors in Canadian mining and resource stocks.
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