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North American markets are set to open lower Tuesday, in the wake of disappointing earnings from aluminum giant Alcoa Inc. and weaker-than-expected Canada and U.S. trade data.

In premarket trading, Dow Jones industrial average futures are down 66 points, S&P 500 futures are down 8.20 points and Nasdaq composite index futures are down 11.75 points.

Alcoa, the first major U.S. company to report its financial results for the fourth quarter, reported late Monday that its profit from continuing operations, excluding one-time charges, was 1 cent (U.S.) a share - well below the 6 cents a share analysts had expected. Its stock, which is a component of the Dow, is off almost 6 per cent in premarket trading.

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Meanwhile, Canada's trade balance slipped into a surprise deficit for November, while the U.S. deficit widened more than expected.

Overseas, Asian markets closed mixed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 0.4 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei index rose 0.8 per cent.

European bourses are generally lower. London's FTSE 100 index is down 1.2 per cent.

Crude oil is down $1.30 (U.S.) at $81.22 a barrel in New York. Gold is down $4.80 at $1,146.50 an ounce.

The Canadian dollar is down half a cent at 96.26 cents (U.S.).

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About the Author
Economics Reporter

David Parkinson has been covering business and financial markets since 1990, and has been with The Globe and Mail since 2000. A Calgary native, he received a Southam Fellowship from the University of Toronto in 1999-2000, studying international political economics. More

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