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Global stocks were set for a weak start on Wednesday, a day after U.S. indexes blasted higher for their biggest one-day gains in a month on hopes that Spanish borrowing costs had retreated.

U.S. index futures were down with about two hours before markets open, suggesting that stocks will fall at the start of trading. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average were down 33 points or 0.3 per cent. Futures for the broader S&P 500 were down 4 points or 0.3 per cent.

In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 was down 0.5 per cent and Germany's DAX index was down 0.9 per cent in afternoon trading. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 2.1 per cent in overnight trading.

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While the U.S. first quarter earnings season has been progressing well, with most companies topping lowered expectations, investors didn't take kindly to the quarterly earnings from tech bellwethers Intel Corp. and International Business Machines Corp., delivered after markets closed on Tuesday. Intel shares fell 3.1 per cent in premarket activity, while IBM fell 2.2 per cent.

However, Yahoo Inc. rose 3.1 per cent in premarket activity after its earnings rose 28 per cent over last year.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. was set for some turbulence after Mr. Buffett disclosed on Tuesday evening that he has prostrate cancer. The "B" shares slipped 1.3 per cent premarket, even though Mr. Buffett said he will be receiving treatment and has no plans to step down.

In deal-making news, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Pfizer Inc. is close to a $9-billion (U.S.) deal to sell its infant nutrition business to Nestle SA. As well, Canada's Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., a convenience-store operator, has agreed to buy Norway's Statoil Fuel and Retail ASA for $2.8-billion.

Meanwhile, commodities retreated slightly. Crude oil fell to $104.11 a barrel, down 0.1 per cent. Gold fell to $1,646 an ounce, down 0.3 per cent.

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