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 drifting higher this morning, and markets are likely to stay subdued until 2 p.m. (ET) today, when the U.S. Federal Reserve will release its monetary policy statement and updated economic forecasts. The Fed's new chair, Janet Yellen, will be holding her first press conference 30 minutes later.
While it's widely expected the Fed will keep interest rates unchanged and scale back its monthly bond buying program by a further $10-billion a month, it's less known what the Fed will say in terms of forward policy guidance. A major focus will be on how the unemployment rate will guide future decisions.
The Fed's current pledge is to keep interest rates unchanged until "well past" the point when the unemployment rate falls below 6.5 per cent. But with the rate steadily dropping over the past year - it stood at 6.7 per cent in February - some speculate the Fed will make adjustments to that guidance. Also, with recent weak economic numbers in the U.S., which many pegged to severe winter conditions, the Fed's outlook on the economy will be particularly interesting, as well as Ms. Yellen's communicative style to markets.
FedEx released a weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings report this morning, sending its shares down about 2 per cent in the premarket. The company is often seen as an indicator for the strength of the global economy - though some of the miss was linked to the lousy winter and its impact on getting packages to consumers.
Here at home, multiple reports - including from the Globe and Mail - suggest National Resources Minister Joe Oliver, a former Bay Street investment banker, will become Canada's new finance minister after Jim Flaherty announced his resignation from cabinet on Tuesday. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to make the announcement later today.
The shakeup in the key cabinet posting should have little impact on stock markets, but could influence currency and bond trading. This morning, the loonie has lost a little more ground after skidding nearly three-quarters of a cent on Tuesday after Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz provided a generally weak outlook for the economy. The Canadian dollar this morning is trading just barely above a nearly five-year low of 89.10 that was hit at the end of January.
Now, here's a closer look at what's going on this morning and what is still to come.
Futures: S&P 500 +0.13 per cent; Dow +0.09 per cent; Nasdaq +0.16 per cent; S&P Toronto +0.05 per cent
Hong Kong's Hang Seng -0.07 per cent
Shanghai composite index -0.16 per cent
Japan's Nikkei +0.36 per cent
London's FTSE 100 -0.11 per cent
Germany's DAX +0.46 per cent
France's CAC 40 +0.09 per cent
WTI crude oil (Nymex May) -0.29 per cent at $98.59 (U.S.) a barrel
Gold (Comex Apr) -0.91 per cent at $1,346.70 (U.S.) an ounce
Copper (Comex May) -0.78 per cent at $2.93 (U.S.) a pound
Canadian dollar at 89.52 (U.S.), down 0.0028
U.S. dollar index up 0.01 at 79.42
U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.68 per cent, up 0.001
Canada January wholesale trade sales were up 0.8 per cent month over month, close to Street expectations.
(2 p.m. ET) U.S. Federal Reserve makes announcement on monetary policy. It's expected to make no change in interest rates and maintain its plan of tapering its monthly bond purchases by a further $10-billion.
(230 p.m. ET) Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen conducts her first press conference.
STOCKS TO WATCH:
FedEx reported fourth-quarter EPS of $1.23 (U.S.), well below Street expectations of $1.46, and full-year guidance came down to account for the miss. Shares are down about 2 per cent in the premarket.
Oracle late Tuesday reported adjusted EPS of 30 cents, missing the Street consensus of 25 cents. Shares are down 2.4 per cent in the premarket.
Other earnings include: Armtec; Athabasca Oil; Endeavour Mining; Franco-Nevada; KB Home; New Flyer; Power Corp. of Canada; Power Financial; General Mills; Guess.
JPMorgan said it is selling its physical commodities business to Mercuria Energy Group for $3.5-billion (U.S.).
TD Securities upgraded Vermilion Energy to "buy" from "hold" and raised its price target to $75 (Canadian) from $66.
CIBC World Markets initiated coverage on Suncor Energy with a "sector outperformer" rating and $44.50 (Canadian) price target.
Jennings Research downgraded Semafo two notches to "sell" from "buy" and maintained a $4.25 (Canadian) price target, saying the stock has gotten ahead of itself.
Desjardins Securities hiked its price target on Alimentation Couche-Tard to $100 (Canadian) from $85 and maintained a "buy" rating. Canaccord Genuity raised its target to $97 from $93 and also reiterated a "buy" rating. BMO Nesbitt Burns hiked its target to $97 from $89.
Wells Fargo upgraded Juniper Networks to "outperform" from "market perform" and lifted its price target range to $30-32 from $28-30.
FBR Capital raised its price target on Adobe to $70 (U.S.) from $52 and reiterated a "market perform" rating.
Goldman Sachs downgraded Orbitz Worldwide to "sell" from "neutral" with a price target of $8 (U.S.).
Barclays upgraded Gannett to "equalweight" from "underweight" and raised its price target to $25 (U.S.) from $24.
THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING LINKS:
Why stocks rallied in the face of a new cold war.
Wall Street has little consensus on what will happen to Fed policy next year.
Strip out its stake in Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan, and the implied market value of the rest of Yahoo has collapsed during Marissa Mayer's tenure, and might even be negative.
Barron's interviews Jeremy Granthan on his latest market views.
For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities.