It looks like a flat start to trading this morning in North America, with Alcoa Inc.'s earnings late Tuesday providing only mild encouragement that the profitability of the corporate sector is improving.
U.S. stock index futures are sightly positive, with most European and Asian indexes trending higher. Commodities this morning are seeing only slight price moves.
The world's largest aluminum producer met analysts' forecasts in reporting income from continuing operations of 6 cents (U.S.) a share. But revenues were a bit better than expected and the company forecast aluminum demand in China, the largest consuming country, will rise 11 per cent this year - thanks in part to new stimulus spending by the nation's new leadership. Overall, it forecast global aluminum demand to rise 7 per cent. That's faster than 6 per cent growth that was seen for 2012, but doesn't exactly represent rapid acceleration in consumption patterns.
Alcoa shares this morning are up 2 per cent in the premarket. But the report is only a tiny taste of what's to come as the earnings season gets fully underway next week with the U.S. big banks revealing their latest numbers. Forecasters expect earnings of $25.29 for this year’s fourth quarter from S&P 500 companies, just below the record high of $25.43 posted in the second quarter and well above the figure of $23.73 reported for the final three months of 2011.
There's not much on the economic calendar today to rattle markets, but in the wee hours of Thursday morning, China will release its latest import and export numbers. They could be potential market movers, especially for commodities, given the focus recently on rebounding growth in the Chinese economy.
Now, here's a closer look at what else you need to know 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 +0.46 per cent
Shanghai composite index -0.05 per cent
Japan's Nikkei +0.68 per cent
London’s FTSE 100 +0.37 per cent
Germany’s DAX +0.04 per cent
France's CAC 40 +0.08 per cent
WTI (Nymex Feb) -0.10 per cent at $93.06 (U.S.) a barrel
Gold (Comex Feb) +0.03 per cent at $1,662.70 (U.S.) an ounce
Silver (Comex Mar) -0.13 per cent at $30.43 (U.S.) an ounce
Copper (Comex Mar) +0.35 per cent at $3.69 (U.S.) a pound
Canadian dollar down 0.0015, or 0.15 per cent, at $1.0121 (U.S.)
ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said annualized housing starts in December came in at 198,000, a little higher than the 195,000 economists expected.
STOCKS TO WATCH:
TransCanada Corp. has been chosen by Progress Energy to build the proposed $5-billion Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project.
Clearwire Corp. shares are up nearly 10 per cent in the premarket after the wireless company received a buyout offer from Dish Network Corp. late Tuesday that was about 11 per cent higher than an earlier bid from Sprint Nextel.
Apple Inc. shares will be in focus again as the Wall Street Journal reports the company is working on a lower-end iPhone. Apple’s chief executive is also meeting with partners and government officials in China.
Constellation Brands Inc., the world's largest branded wine company, reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings and raised its earnings forecast for the second time in a year.
Other earnings today include DragonWave Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc.
THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:
10 reasons to be bullish in 2013.
How to calculate your returns in Canadian dollars.
Leigh Drogen, founder of New York management firm Surfview Capital, reveals his 10 favourite stocks and trends for 2013.
If Apple`s iPad was a standalone company, it would be American`s 11th largest tech firm.
The consumer discretionary sector may be losing steam.
Expect another year of record U.S. dividends in 2013.
Hedge fund manager John Paulson took a giant step last year toward recovering from his recent woes.
Five ETF megatrends for 2013 in the U.S.
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