North American markets ended the day relatively flat on Wednesday, ahead of a much-anticipated policy statement on Thursday from the European Central Bank.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,047.48, up 11.54 points, or 0.1 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1,403.44, down 1.5 points, or 0.1 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 11,990.14, up 48.44 points, or 0.4 per cent.
The moves follow reports that the European Central Bank could announce as early as Thursday a proposal to buy unlimited quantities of government bonds in an attempt to drive down the borrowing costs of countries like Spain and Italy. The plan would involve buying shorter-term government bonds of up to three years.
The European sovereign-debt crisis has been weighing on markets for years, and the occasional flare-up has roiled major indexes in North America. Compounding the problem is that the euro zone is struggling with a recession and debilitating unemployment, even as governments slash budgets to bring down deficits.
FedEx Corp. fell 2 per cent after cutting its quarterly earnings forecast and pointing to a weaker global economy. The new forecast points to the company’s first earnings decline in about three years.
Facebook Inc. rose 4.8 per cent after founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a filing that he would not sell his share holdings in the company for at least one year. A rash of insider sales have been weighing on the social media stock in recent weeks, after restrictions on some early investors were lifted.
TransAlta Corp. fell 3.9 per cent, hitting its lowest level since 2000, after it announced a $318-million (U.S.) deal to buy a power station in Western Australia and said it would raise $275-million (Canadian) by selling more than 19 million shares.