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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.

U.S. and Canadian stock futures are edging up this morning, pointing to a modestly higher opening, amid some encouraging economic readings on China's manufacturing sector released overnight.

The TSX will be burdened, however, with a likely big decline in shares of heavyweight Barrick Gold. Its shares are down more than 6 per cent in the premarket after late Thursday announcing a $3-billion stock offering - one of the biggest bond issues in Canadian history - to pay off debt. The move is aimed at improving Barrick's balance sheet but will mean equity dilution for shareholders.

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China's official purchasing managers index came in at 51.4, rising from 51.1 in September, which slightly beat most economists' forecasts. A second report - HSBC's final reading of factory activity - hit a seventh month high, unchanged from an earlier flash estimate from last week.

The reports painted a picture of an economy that is still humming along, but not accelerating as briskly as in the past. Factory order data released elsewhere is Asia overnight also provided some signs of a pickup in global demand. The U.S. will release a manufacturing index later today.

The earnings calendar is lighter today, with only five companies in the S&P 500 reporting results, including Chevron and Berkshire Hathaway. Firms representing about 79 per cent of the S&P 500's market-cap have reported results so far for the third quarter. All of the 10 sectors have beaten their earnings per share expectations, with an aggregate earnings surprise of 4.2 per cent, according to RBC.

Some Fed speak will garner attention later today. Federal Reserve policymaker James Bullard is scheduled to give the first of the post-Fed minute speeches when he speaks on monetary policy today in St. Louis. And Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser gave an interview to CNBC earlier this morning, in which he said he believed the Fed "clearly missed" a chance to begin tapering its massive bond-buying program in September.

Now, here's a closer look at what's going on this morning and what to look for later today.

MARKETS:

Equities:

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Futures: S&P 500 +0.24 per cent; Dow +0.34 per cent; Nasdaq +0.33 per cent; S&P Toronto +0.18 per cent

Hong Kong's Hang Seng +0.19 per cent

Shanghai composite index +0.39 per cent

Japan's Nikkei -0.88 per cent

London's FTSE 100 -0.13 per cent

Germany's DAX -0.19 per cent

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France's CAC 40 -0.42 per cent

Commodities:

WTI crude oil (Nymex Dec) -0.72 per cent at $95.69 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Dec) -0.66 per cent at $1,315.00 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Dec) +0.53 per cent at $3.32 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

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Canadian dollar at 95.89 (U.S.), up 0.0004 from Thursday's North American close.

U.S. dollar index up 0.26 at 80.45

Bonds:

U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.57 per cent, down 0.01

ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:

The final U.S. Markit Purchasing Managers' Index for October rose to 51.8, down from 52.8 in September.

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(10 a.m. ET) ISM Manufacturing index released for October, forecast to come in at 55.0 from September's 56.2

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Barrick shares are down about 6 per cent in the premarket at $18.16 (U.S.) after announcing late Thursday a $3-billion stock offering to pay off debt. The bond offering price is $18.35 (U.S.).

Brookfield Property Partners announced that it has agreed to acquire additional shares and warrants of General Growth Properties for $1.4-billion (U.S.).

First Solar shares are up 7 per cent in the premarket after the solar-panel maker reported a more than doubling of third-quarter profits, easily exceeding expectations.

Chevron reported third-quarter earnings per share of $2.57, below the consensus view of $2.71. Shares are up slightly in the premarket.

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Fairfax Financial Holdings should see heavy trading after the company reported a third-quarter net loss of $29.02 a share due to equity hedges that lost money in a rising market. The company is providing commentary to analysts later today.

TransForce says it has purchased two freight transport businesses from Clarke Inc. for $88-million.

Apple's new iPad Air model begins selling in U.S. stores today. Shares in the premarket are up 0.2 per cent.

Major U.S. auto makers report new vehicle sales for October.

Other earnings today include: Fortis, Norbord, Pembina Pipeline, SNC-Lavalin, Vitran.

ANALYST ACTIONS:

FBR Capital cut its price target on BlackBerry to $6.50 (U.S.) from $8 and reiterated an "underperform" rating.

National Bank and Raymond James both upgraded Stantec to "outperform." Raymond James boosted its target to $73 from $53.50. Canaccord Genuity boosted its target to $69 (Canadian) from $58.50 and reiterated a "buy" rating. Desjardins Securities raised its target to $60 from $55 but maintained a "hold" rating.

Canaccord Genuity upgraded Alamos Gold to "buy" from "hold" and maintained a $20 (Canadian) target. But Raymond James downgraded its rating on Alamos to "market perform" from "outperform" due to valuation concerns as it cut its price target to $17.25 (U.S.) from $18.50. And RBC downgraded Alamos Gold to "sector perform" from "outperform" while maintaining an $18 (Canadian) price target.

Raymond James upgraded Twin Butte Energy to "strong buy" from "outperform" and raised its price target to $3 (Canadian) from $2.75. TD Securities upgraded its rating to "buy" from "hold" and raised its price target to $3 from $2.50.

CIBC World Markets downgraded Mercator Minerals to "sector underperformer" from "sector performer" and slashed its price target to 3 cents from 30 cents.

Desjardins Securities cut its price target on Bombardier to $6.50 (Canadian) from $7 but maintained a "buy" rating.

Raymond James raised its price target on Methanex to $68 (U.S.) from $63 and maintained an "outperform" rating. CIBC raised its target to $40 from $36 and reiterated a "sector underperfomer" rating.

CIBC World Markets raised its price target on Canfor Pulp Products to $14 (Canadian) from $12 and maintained a "sector outperformer" rating.

CIBC World Markets raised its price target on Cogeco Cable to $53 (Canadian) from $51 and maintained a "sector performer" rating. RBC Dominion Securities cut its target to $55 (Canadian) from $57 and maintained an "outperform" rating.

Canaccord Genuity downgraded Kraft Foods Group to "hold" from "buy," maintains a $59 (U.S.) price target.

Barclays downgraded Weight Watchers to "equal weight" from "overweight" and cut its target to $31 from $46.

Moody's has placed Sony Corp.'s long-term unsecured debt on review for a possible downgrade, citing slow progress in improving the Japanese firm's profitability.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:

Greek stocks, once shunned by investors concerned that a default would force the nation out of the euro, are beating almost every market in the world.

Warren Buffett, who aims to have $20-billion in cash at his Berkshire Hathaway Inc., isn't investing fast enough to keep money from piling up.

Bill Gross feels really bad that he is so rich.

Investors are not appreciating the full risk of another 1999-style bubble.

What the final 20 days of a bull market looks like.

Why Facebook's tax rate is so much higher than those of its competitors.

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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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