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Before the bell: Stock futures flat, Alcoa soars on deal

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 holding steady this morning as the U.S. released its latest jobless claims and personal income and spending numbers. The data largely came in as expected, setting U.S. and Canadian markets up for a flat open.

Wednesday's surprisingly weak reading on U.S. GDP in the first quarter, showing a contraction of 2.9 per cent, means traders are closely watching for signs that consumer spending sharply bounced back this spring after this winter's severe weather.

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The biggest drop in quarterly U.S. GDP since early 2009 provided a bit of extra confidence to market players that the U.S. Federal Reserve will be very cautious in moving towards tighter monetary policy, but the real test is what the data in more recent months have to say.

European markets are slightly weaker this morning, despite some decent gains in Asia overnight. Mainland China shares rose nearly 0.7 per cent after three Chinese firms soared upon their premier on the stock market. They were the first listings in China in four months.

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

MARKETS:

Equities:

Futures: S&P 500 +0.03 per cent; Dow +0.05 per cent; Nasdaq +0.07; S&P/TSX +0.04 per cent

Hong Kong's Hang Seng +1.45 per cent

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Shanghai composite index +0.67 per cent

Japan's Nikkei +0.27 per cent

London's FTSE 100 -0.02 per cent

Germany's DAX -0.15 per cent

France's CAC 40 -0.10 per cent

Commodities:

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WTI crude oil (Nymex Aug) -0.15 per cent at $106.34 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Aug) -0.86 per cent at $1,311.20 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Sep) -0.11 per cent at $3.16 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar at 93.36 (U.S.), up 0.0008

U.S. dollar index down 0.006 at 80.21

Bonds:

U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.56 per cent, down 0.005

ECONOMIC INDICATORS:

U.S. jobless claims for last week came in at 312,000, close to Street expectations of 312,000.

U.S. personal income in May rose 0.4 per cent, matching the Street consensus. U.S. personal spending rose 0.2 per cent, half of the 0.4 per cent rise expected by economists.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Alcoa said it will buy Firth Rixson from Oak Hill for about $2.85-billion (U.S.) to expand its aerospace operations. Alcoa shares are up more than 5 per cent in the premarket.

Grocer Sobeys, owned by Empire,  announced that it is closing 50 underperforming stores and cutting jobs following its $5.8-billion acquisition of rival Safeway Canada. The company also boosted its quarterly dividend by a penny, matched market expectations on revenues in its latest quarter and beat on earnings.

Shaw Communications reported Q3 EPS of 47 cents (Canadian) versus the Street estimated 49 cents. Revenue also came in slightly below consensus.

Bed, Bath and Beyond shares are down 7 per cent in the premarket after reporting weaker-than-expected earnings late Wednesday.

ConAgra reported Q4 adjusted EPS of 55 cents (U.S.), matching estimates. But revenues beat estimates and shares are up 1.6 per cent in the premarket.

Other earnings today include: Accenture, Lennar Corp., McCormick & Company Inc., Nike Inc., Steelcase Inc., Winnebago Industries Inc., Worthington Industries Inc.

ANALYST ACTIONS:

CIBC downgraded Augusta Resource to "sector performer" from "sector outperformer" and cut its price target to $3.56 (Canadian) from $4.75.

Raymond James downgraded Secure Energy Services to "outperform" from "strong buy" and maintained a $24 (Canadian) price target.

RBC Dominion Securities raised its price target on Chorus Aviation to $5.50 (Canadian) from $4.50 and maintained an "outperform" rating.

Raymond James initiated coverage on Lumenpulse with an "outperform" rating and $25 (Canadian) price target.

Canaccord Genuity hiked its price target on Monsanto to $155 (U.S.) from $135 and maintained a "buy" rating.

Barclays initiated coverage on Amazon.com with an "equalweight" rating and $330 (U.S.) price target. It also started coverage on LinkedIn with an "equalweight" rating and $175 (U.S.) target, and on Facebook with an "overweight" rating and $78 (U.S.) target.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING LINKS:

Turns out, it was worth a contrarian investment in Russian stocks.

Global fund managers are getting increasingly bullish on equities.

The market can rise with increasing volatility.

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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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About the Author
Investment Editor

Darcy Keith is The Globe and Mail's Investment Editor. He has been a business journalist since 1992 and joined the Report on Business in 2010 from Yahoo! Canada, where he was the senior editor of finance. More

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