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North American stocks appear set for mild losses at the open, as traders struggle to shake off worries about the European debt crisis and the looming U.S. fiscal cliff.

U.S. stock index futures, as well as gold and crude oil, are a little lower this morning, even after the Dow Jones industrial average's 172-point surge on Friday brought the index above its 200-day moving average and to its first close above 13,000 since U.S. election day on Nov. 6.

While that makes the blue chip index more attractive from a technical standpoint, markets are bracing for more news out of Washington and Europe that could incite volatility in coming days.

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European finance ministers are meeting today, aiming to approve the latest aid payment to Greece. It's the third time this month they are meeting in an attempt keep the country solvent, with a breakthrough dependent on the ministers agreeing on whether some of the official loans to Athens might eventually be forgiven to cut Greek debt.

Spain is seeing its share of economic and political stress, after separatist parties in the Catalonia region won a snap election this weekend, promising to use their popular mandate to try to hold a referendum on independence.

Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for a three-week session after the Thanksgiving holiday last week, and they'll have their hands full trying to head off the more than $600-billion in spending cuts and tax increases set to take hold at the end of this year. Some Republican lawmakers over the weekend suggested that they may be ready to break a longstanding promise not to raise taxes, a sign that the two sides are at least willing to work together.

Aside from the charts, market bulls have something else working in their favour today. U.S. consumers were out in full force over the last few days and are expected to spend the most ever shopping online today, which is known as Cyber Monday. That strength in the retail sector should eventually provide some fuel to the broader economy.

Now, here's what else you need to know before markets open this morning.



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U.S. futures: DJIA -0.4 per cent; S&P 500 -0.5 per cent; Nasdaq -0.3 per cent

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index +0.55 per cent

Shanghai composite index -0.51 per cent

Japan's Nikkei +0.81 per cent

London's FTSE 100 -0.40 per cent

Germany's DAX -0.17 per cent

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France's CAC 40 -0.59 per cent


WTI (Nymex Jan) -0.26 per cent at $88.05 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Dec) -0.12 per cent at $1,749.30 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Mar) +0.07 per cent at $3.54 (U.S.) a pound


Canadian dollar up 0.0038, or 0.38 per cent, at 1.0066 (U.S.)


Research In Motion shares are up 2.4 per cent in the premarket after CIBC reportedly became the latest research house to praise the company's turnaround efforts ahead of the BlackBerry 10 launch. It upgraded RIM by two notches to "sector outperformer" from "sector underperformer" while more than doubling its price target to $17 from $8.

Goldman Sachs has added Yahoo to its "conviction buy" list - its highest recommendation -  and raised its price target to $24 (U.S.). Shares are up 2.1 per cent in the premarket.

Citigroup has initiated coverage on Apple with a "buy" rating and $675 (U.S.) price target. Shares up are 0.2 per cent in the premarket.

Bernstein has upgraded Facebook to "outperform" and raised its price target to $33 from $23. Shares are up 2.7 per cent in the premarket.

Onex Corp. is buying U.S. insurance broker USI in a $2.3-billion deal.

SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. shares could come under pressure after news that the corruption scandal at the company has expanded, with Swiss prosecutors now reportedly chasing $139-million in suspected illicit payments. That's more than double the amount of missing money that was first reported.

Earnings today include Major Drilling Group International Inc.


If the RIM comeback turns out to be real, it could have stock-boosting implications for many other tech companies.

Three well-respected advisers on how they choose ETFs, which ones they stay away from, and what they see ahead.

How to use low-volatility stock ETFs to ease the high anxiety of markets of late.

Four ways to get extra yield without extra risk.

Strong Black Friday sales or not, investors should proceed with caution when buying into retail ETFs.

Canada's hedge funds are looking pretty underwhelming versus the broader market this year. Here's what's wrong with them.


For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities

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