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Premarket: Japan stocks soar to 4-year highs; RIM dips Add to ...

This is a great morning for those gutsy investors who own Japanese stocks: the Nikkei soared 3.78 per cent overnight to more than four-year highs.

Other overseas markets were rather subdued, but in Japan, a weaker yen - which helps to support the country's export sector - and hopes for aggressive easing measures from the country's central bank, made for quite a rally. It was the Nikkei's biggest gain in almost a year, and was led mostly by banks and exporters.

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The U.S. dollar rose as high as about 94 yen, its highest level since 2010, after Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said late Tuesday that he would step down from his post on March 19 to coincide with the departure of two deputy governors. That was a few weeks ahead of his term ending, and some interpreted the news as meaning an accelerated monetary policy easing plan could be in the works. Candidates for the position will be revealed later this month and they are expected to all support additional easing to some degree.

Closer to home, U.S. stock futures this morning are largely unchanged, and commodity prices are trending lower, suggesting only minor moves at the start of the trading day. The Dow, less than 21 points away from 14,000, may have another go at retaking that level, but it will not come easy.

There's little economic news today to inspire markets, but corporate earnings will continue to pour out. The fourth quarter has been strong overall - with 74 per cent of companies in the S&P 500 index beating analysts' estimates, according to Bloomberg data.

Now, here's a look at what else is going on this morning:

MARKETS:

Equities:

U.S. futures: S&P 500 -0.2 per cent; Dow -0.2 per cent at 13,888; Nasdaq -0.4 per cent

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index +0.47 per cent

Shanghai composite index +0.04 per cent

Japan's Nikkei +3.78 per cent

London’s FTSE 100 +0.32  per cent

Germany’s DAX -0.23 per cent

France's CAC 40 -0.64 per cent

Commodities:

WTI (Nymex Mar) -0.65 per cent at $96.01 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Apr) -0.16 per cent at $1,670.80 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Mar) -0.64 per cent at $3.75 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar down 0.0024, or 0.22 per cent, at $1.0024 (U.S.)

ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:

No major reports scheduled.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Research In Motion Ltd. shares are down 3 per cent in premarket trading after rallying strongly this week, including a 6.3 per cent gain on Tuesday amid signs of strong demand in Canada and the U.K. for its new BlackBerry 10 products. Canaccord Genuity this morning is taking a bearish stance on the stock, reiterating its "sell" rating and $9 (U.S.) price target, arguing that product sellouts in the U.K. had more to do with limited supplies hitting store shelves.

Suncor Energy Inc. has taken a writedown of nearly $1.5-billion on its Voyageur project, a massive oil sands plant that is now at serious risk of cancellation. It's also facing a $1.2-billion tax bill. U.S.-listed shares are down about 5 per cent in the premarket.

WestJet Airlines Ltd. reported net earnings of 46 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter on revenue of $860.6 million. That was up more than 70 per cent from net earnings of 26 cents per share on revenue of $781.5-million in the same 211 period.

Husky Energy Inc. reported adjusted net income of 50 cents per share in the fourth quarter, six cents below the Street expectation.

Time Warner reported adjusted net profits in the fourth quarter of $1.17, beating analyst views of $1.10. Shares are up 4 per cent in the premarket.

Liberty Global Inc. late Tuesday agreed to buy U.K. telecom and pay TV firm Virgin Media Inc. in a $23.3-billion deal. Virgin Media shares are down 1.3 per cent in the premarket.

Disney reported a 5.6 per cent dip in quarterly profits, but it was enough to beat analyst expectations.

Zynga reported quarterly results and revenue well ahead of Street expectations. Shares are up 6 per cent in the premarket.

Other earnings today include: ArcelorMittal SA; ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc.; Calian Technologies Inc.; Canaccord Financial Inc.; CVS Caremark Corp.; Gildan Activewear Inc.; GlaxoSmithKline PLC; IntercontinentalExchange Inc.; Marathon Oil Corp.; News Corp.; Sierra Wireless Inc.; TMX Group Inc.; and Visa Inc.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:

Facebook is not a buy, declares Fortune magazine.

U.S. dividend-paying stocks Morgan Stanley thinks you should be buying.

Insider selling surged after the Dow hit 14,000.

Bank of America is warning of a "severe" danger looming in corporate bonds.

Watch the U.S. dollar: it could trigger the next crisis.

Facebook is reportedly working on an app that can track your location even if it isn't open.

________

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

Follow on Twitter: @eyeonequities

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