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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke walks through the audience after speaking during the "Rethinking Finance: Perspectives on the Crisis" financial conference in New York, April 13, 2012. (Lucas Jackson/REUTERS)
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke walks through the audience after speaking during the "Rethinking Finance: Perspectives on the Crisis" financial conference in New York, April 13, 2012. (Lucas Jackson/REUTERS)

Premarket: Traders count down to Bernanke speech Add to ...

The Toronto stock market looked set to advance Wednesday with the U.S. Federal Reserve in focus.

Traders looked ahead to the afternoon release of the central bank’s latest survey of regional economic conditions while awaiting a key speech by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.17 of a cent to 101.07 cents (U.S.) amid lower prices for oil and metals.

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U.S. futures were in the red with the Dow Jones industrial futures off nine points to 13,077, the Nasdaq futures down two points at 2,778.8 and the S&P 500 futures 1.5 points lower at 1,406.3.

Markets have made minor moves this week ahead of Mr. Bernanke’s speech at the Fed’s annual retreat at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Expectations for another round of economic stimulus have risen over the past couple of weeks after the minutes from the Fed’s last interest rate meeting Aug. 1 showed more members wanting to see the central bank take more action to revive the economy.

Markets finished lower Tuesday in the wake of a report showing slipping consumer confidence over the summer prompted by employment worries.

There are doubts Mr. Bernanke would commit to more stimulus ahead of important data next week, including the latest snapshot of the manufacturing sector and the August non-farm payrolls report at the end of the week. The Fed holds its next interest rate announcement Sept. 13.

The Federal Reserve releases its so-called Beige Book mid-afternoon Wednesday.

“It should affirm that the expansion is proceeding at a modest to moderate pace, though its tone should improve somewhat from the July report given the recent pickup in activity,” said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri.

“It might upgrade slightly the earlier view of tepid job growth and acknowledge further healing in housing markets. Unfortunately, it will also capture the adverse impact of the worst drought in more than half a century on crop production and food prices.”

Crude prices were lower after finance ministers from the world’s leading industrialized economies called on oil producers to increase output and said they stood ready to ask the International Energy Agency to release strategic reserves.

A statement released by the Group of Seven finance ministers said the ministers were concerned about the impact of rising oil prices on the global economy and were prepared to act. The October crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down 72 cents to $95.61 (U.S.) a barrel.

Copper prices also stepped back, down for a fourth session as September copper dropped three cents to US$3.43.

Gold lost $4.50 to $1,665.20 (U.S.) an ounce.

In corporate news, oil and gas producer Calgary-based Fairborne Energy Ltd. is selling dry natural gas assets for a total of $189-million. Fairborne said depressed natural gas prices and volatility in capital markets have challenged its ability to fund growth.

Stakeholders in Progress Energy Resources Corp. have overwhelmingly approved the $6-billion takeover of the company by a subsidiary of Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas. The company says more than 99 per cent of both stockholders and debenture holders have approved the arrangement, which the company says is not being opposed by the federal Competition Bureau.

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