The TSX opened higher while major U.S. indexes were slightly lower in a steady start to the trading day. Spirits were lifted a bit after China reported modestly stronger-than-expected gross domestic product data, but mixed results from the latest batch of U.S. corporate earnings have left markets range-bound.
Markets didn't receive much encouragement from the Reuter's/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index for January. It fell to 71.3, down sharply from 80.5 in December and well below economists' forecasts for 75.0. That was the lowest reading since December of 2011.
In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 29 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 12,704; the S&P 500 was down 2 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 1,479; the Dow Jones industrial average was down just under 1 point at 13,595, and the Nasdaq was down 10 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 3,127.
Research In Motion Ltd. was having another stellar session, opening up 5 per cent to 11-month highs after Jefferies upgraded the stock to a "buy" and boosted its price target to $19.50 (U.S.) from $13. Jefferies analyst Peter Misek pointed out that RIM will enable corporate email on iPhones and Android devices as the BlackBerry 10 hits the market, a "change we believe is unknown or not well understood but is important." He also notes there is a huge short position in RIM shares, and a squeeze could quickly propel bigger gains in the stock.
Apple Inc. shares aren't faring nearly as well, opening down half a percentage point amid more concerns about how demand for its products is holding up. Reuters reported today that Sharp Corp. has nearly halted production of 9.7-inch screens for the iPad, as demand shifts to its smaller iPad mini.
Asian markets roared with delight overnight as China saw fourth-quarter GDP growth of 7.9 per cent, edging past economists' forecasts of 7.8 per cent. The country's commissioner for the National Bureau of Statistics declared that overall national economic performance has stabilized.
Chinese stocks rose 1.4 per cent and in Japan - where positive industrial production figures were released - the Nikkei rose close to 3 per cent.
In Europe, indexes are mixed and close to unchanged, with a drop in industrial production data in Spain and Italy keeping traders fearful of the uncertain outlook in the euro zone. Spain's industrial production fell 1.5 per cent in November, disappointing economists who had expected a 2.5 per cent rise. Italian industrial production fell 0.5 per cent, missing forecasts for a 2.0 per cent rise.
A key focus today, and next week, are corporate earnings. So far, the fourth-quarter results haven't been too shabby, with 70 per cent of the 57 companies within the S&P 500 that reported results prior to today beating analysts' expectations, according to bloomberg.
Here's a look at some of the other key stocks moving on news this morning:
General Electric Co. shares are up 2 per cent after it reported a 7.5 per cent rise in fourth-quarter earnings. Its earnings were a tad better than Street expectations, although revenue came up short.
Morgan Stanley shares are up 6 per cent after the bank swung to profit in its latest quarter, with adjusted earnings of 45 cents beating the Street view of 27 cents.
Intel shares are down 6 per cent. Late Thursday it reported earnings that beat Wall Street expectations but its outlook was slightly below Street forecasts and suggested its struggles with slumping PC demand will stay with it for some time.
Capital One Financial Corp. shares are down 7 per cent as both its fourth-quarter profit and guidance missed analysts' expectations.
Netflix is up nearly 3 per cent after Janney Capital Markets upgraded the online video provider to "buy" from "neutral" and lifted the stock's fair value estimate to $129 (U.S.).
SNC-Lavalin is shaking up its senior management team and creating a new organizational structure for the global engineering company. Shares are down 0.2 per cent at $43.94.