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Before the bell: Stocks, gold under pressure on Fed comments

The Before the Bell report is constantly updated to reflect the latest news developments and market moves in the premarket. Check back later for updates.

North American stock futures are pushing a little lower this morning in a continuation of the selling pressure seen Wednesday as the U.S. Federal Reserve left the door open to a tapering of its bond-buying purchases before the end of this year.

The interpretation of the Fed's statement, released as it announced no changes in interest rates nor the size of its $85-billion-a-month asset purchase program, is particularly notable for gold and U.S. Treasuries given the quantitative easing program has always been seen as risking higher inflation. And indeed, futures for the metal are down more than 1.5 per cent this morning.

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The Fed said it needs to see more evidence of sustainable improvement before adjusting its stimulus measures, but commented that the economy was showing signs of "underlying strength."

That suggested to some that the Fed is getting a little more comfortable with the direction of the economy and that the market consensus that a tapering won't happen until March is no for sure thing. For instance, Citigroup has now placed the odds of a taper in January at 45 per cent; it had been at 25 per cent prior to Wednesday's statement.

The Fed's statement could also suggest that it was getting uncomfortable with the surge in equity values that has left U.S. stocks well into record territory.

Here in Canada, we got fresh earnings results from some of the biggest stocks that trade on the TSX. We detail all this and much more below.

MARKETS:

Equities:

Futures: S&P 500 -0.07 per cent; Dow -0.01 per cent; Nasdaq -0.30 per cent; S&P Toronto -0.32 per cent

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Hong Kong's Hang Seng -0.42 per cent

Shanghai composite index -0.85 per cent

Japan's Nikkei -1.20 per cent

London's FTSE 100 -0.44 per cent

Germany's DAX -0.19 per cent

France's CAC 40 +0.11 per cent

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Commodities:

WTI crude oil (Nymex Dec) -0.58 per cent at $96.21 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Dec) -1.72 per cent at $1,326.00 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Dec) -0.54 per cent at $3.31 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar at 95.76 (U.S.), up 0.0031 from Wednesday's North American close.

U.S. dollar index up 0.17 at 79.95

Bonds:

U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.51 per cent, down 0.03

ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:

Statscan said August GDP rose 0.3 per cent from July, or 2 per cent when annualized versus the Street consensus for a 1.7 per cent rise.

U.S. weekly jobless claims for last week fell 10,000 to 340,000. That's still a little higher than the 335,000 predicted by the Street.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Barrick shares are down 1.3 per cent in the premarket after releasing earnings and announcing a temporary suspension of the Pascua-Lama mine.

Suncor reported third-quarter operating profit of 95 cents a share compared with the average analyst estimate of 87 cents. It also approved its Fort Hills oil-sands mine after years of delay. Shares are up 2.2 per cent in the premarket.

Bombardier reported adjusted profit of 9 cents a share, a little below the analyst consensus of 10 cents. Revenue was below the Street view as well.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International cut its full-year revenue outlook as it reported adjusted profit of $1.43 per share, close to expectations. Shares are down 3 per cent in the premarket.

Facebook shares are up about 3 per cent in the premarket after reporting better-than-expected earnings in its latest quarter late Wednesday. the stock initially surged about 15 per cent on the earnings report in the post market Wednesday, but later went into reverse when company executives in an analyst conference call said daily Facebook usage among younger teens had declined.

ExxonMobil reported third-quarter earnings per share of $1.79 versus the Street estimate of $1.77.

Starbucks shares are down 2.3 per cent in the premarket after the company reported modestly better-than-expected earnings late Wednesday and boosted its dividend by 24 per cent - but also provided forward guidance on revenue growth that disappointed some investors.

TransAlta reported adjusted third-quarter profit of 15 cents, a bit below the 17 cents per share Street consensus.

Mastercard reported third-quarter earnings per share of $7.27 vs. the $6.94 Street view. Shares are up nearly 1 per cent in the premarket.

Other earnings today include: Alcatel-Lucent, Cott, Avis Budget, Baytex, Alamos Gold, Bell Aliant, Canfor, Fairfax, Imperial Oil, Newmont Mining, Resolute Forest Products, TransAlta, New York Times,  Western Forest Products.

ANALYST ACTIONS:

BMO Nesbitt Burns downgraded Facebook to "market perform" from "outperform" but maintained a price target of $50 (U.S.). Pivotal Research upgraded Facebook to "buy" from "hold" and raised its price target to $57 from $48. Evercore Partners raised its price target to $65 from $60 and maintained an "overweight" rating.

Credit Suisse upgraded Hess to "outperform" from "neutral" and raised its price target to $100 (U.S.) from $85.

RBC upgraded Contrans Group to "outperform" from "sector perform," hikes target to $15 (Canadian) from $13.

TD Securities downgraded Yamana Gold to "hold" from "buy" and cut its price target to $12 (U.S.) from $13.

Canaccord Genuity downgraded Fluor to "hold" from "buy" on share price appreciation; it reiterated an $80 (U.S.) price target.

Canaccord Genuity downgraded Argonaut Gold to "hold" from "buy" and cut its target to $7.25 (Canadian) from $8.75. It also removed the company from its Canadian Focus List - its most favoured investment ideas.

Raymond James raised its price target on Tim Hortons to $65 (Canadian) from $55, maintains "market perform" rating.

Canaccord Genuity raised its price target on Maple Leaf Foods to $15.50 (Canadian) from $14 and reiterated a "hold" rating.

Raymond James cut its price target on Open Text to $80 (U.S.) from $86 and maintained an "outperform" rating.

RBC raised its price target on General Motors to $50 (U.S.) from $45 and reiterated an "outperform" rating.

Canaccord Genuity upgraded Thoratec to "buy" and raised its target to $45 (U.S.) from $38.

Canaccord Genuity added Primero Mining to its Canadian Focus List - its favourite investing ideas - as it adjusted its price target to $8 (Canadian) from $7.50 (U.S.).

Canaccord Genuity initiated coverage on Pure Multi-Family REIT LP with a "buy" rating and $5.10 (U.S.) price target.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:

The irrational exuberance that is very much in evidence right now tells us little more than that the market is vulnerable to a short-term decline lasting little more than a month — maybe three.

Offensive, rather than defensive, sectors of the U.S. stock market are now taking the lead.

Gold may be turning the corner and headed almost $180 higher from here according to one of Wall Street's top technical analysts.

The influential AllThingsD blog is giving the iPad Air a glowing review.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer just bought a funeral home.

Facebook is testing software that would enable it to track your cursor.

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

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