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inside the market

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.

The S&P 500 appears on track to score another record high this morning, as stock futures are suggesting a modest move higher in U.S. and Canadian indexes when markets open.

Bank of Montreal has become the latest bank to beat market expectations in reporting its latest quarterly results - and it also raised its dividend, a move that took some analysts by surprise. In very light volume, its U.S.-listed shares are up 0.8 per cent in the premarket. Late Tuesday, National Bank released earnings that met Street forecasts.

There are no U.S. economic reports this morning to change market sentiment, so positive trading sentiment should remain intact after several better-than-expected U.S. economic reports on Tuesday -- including housing prices and durable goods -- helped to propel the benchmark U.S. index to fresh heights. Recent rhetoric from the European Central Bank that it may announce some form of monetary easing next week at its latest policy meeting is helping to keep a firm tone in markets across the pond this morning.

The S&P 500 index gained 11.38 points to a record-high close of 1,911.91 on Tuesday, which was just below its intraday high. The Dow is only 60 points away from breaking its own record. The TSX still has to rise another 415 points before it surpasses its all-time high from 2008.

Despite enthusiasm for stocks, demand is still robust for U.S. government bonds, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury this morning sinking to as low as 2.486 per cent, a 10-month low. That should continue to support income-producing securities such as REITs, although yields will almost inevitably rise when the U.S. moves closing to hiking interest rates, likely next year.

Now, here's a closer look at what's going on this morning and what's still to come.

MARKETS:

Equities:

Futures: S&P 500 +0.15 per cent; Dow +0.13 per cent; Nasdaq +0.07; S&P Toronto +0.11 per cent

Hong Kong's Hang Seng +0.59 per cent

Shanghai composite index +0.76 per cent

Japan's Nikkei +0.24 per cent

London's FTSE 100 +0.06 per cent

Germany's DAX +0.05 per cent

France's CAC 40 +0.07 per cent

Commodities:

WTI crude oil (Nymex Jly) +0.24 per cent at $104.36 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Aug) +0.06 per cent at $1,266.40 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Jly) +0.24 per cent at $3.19 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar at 92.11 cents (U.S.), up 0.0003

U.S. dollar index up 0.08 at 80.43

Bonds:

U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.51 per cent, down 0.008

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International has raised the cash portion of its offer for Allergan by 21 per cent to $58.30 per share after Allergan shareholders rejected the previous bid for the botox maker. Nestle also said today it will pay $1.4-billion for the rights to a handful of skin-care products from Valeant.

McDonald's said it plans to return up to $20-billion to shareholders between 2014 and 2016.

Bank of Montreal reported second-quarter adjusted EPS of $1.63, beating Street forecasts by 10 cents. It also announced a 2 cents hike in its dividend to 78 cents a share.

National Bank of Canada late Tuesday reported adjusted profit of $1.05 a share, close to Street forecasts of $1.04 a share. It also raised its quarterly dividend to 48 cents a share.

Michael Kors Holdings reported adjusted quarterly profit of 78 cents a share, topping Street estimates for 68 cents in profit.

Toll Brothers shares were up about 3 per cent in premarket trading after the largest U.S. luxury homebuilder said quarterly profit more than doubled as it sold more homes at higher prices.

Other earnings today include: Palo Alto Networks.

ANALYST ACTIONS:

RBC Dominion Securities upgraded Parkland Fuel to "outperform" from "sector perform" and hiked its price target to $23 (Canadian) from $22.

RBC Dominion Securities hiked its price target on Bank of Nova Scotia to $72 (Canadian) from $70 and reiterated an "outperform" rating.

Canaccord Genuity downgraded Lowe's to "sell" from "hold" and cut its price target to $37 (U.S.) from $47, citing slowing housing market momentum and tough competition.

Deutsche Bank downgraded Dollar General to "hold" from "buy" and cut its price target to $60 (U.S.) from $65.

Nomura Securities upgraded Twitter to "buy" from "neutral" with a price target of $43 (U.S.).

Piper Jaffray upgraded Williams-Sonoma to "overweight" from "neutral" and raised its price target to $85 (U.S.) from $71.

Bernstein raised its price target on Apple to $700 (U.S.) from $615 and reiterated an "outperform" rating.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING LINKS:

How one investor found inner peace.

Why you shouldn't be surprised that gold dropped so much on Tuesday.

Dennis Gartman says calls for a stock-market correction (including his) are all wrong.

Older investors are turning to the web to manage their assets.

Home investing bias is everywhere on the globe.

Apple stock is getting its mojo back.