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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 higher this morning, although gold and copper prices are weak, as another move by China overnight to bolster the health of its banking sector is helping to spur optimism in world markets. Risk appetite for equities is also on the rise after the Federal Reserve said Wednesday that record-low interest rates will stay put for a "considerable time."

Stock futures for the major indexes are 0.2 per cent to 0.3 per cent higher ahead of the opening bell and the Stoxx 600 index of European equities is up about 1 per cent. Gold and copper are both down more than 1 per cent, while crude is holding steady.

China's central bank cut short-term borrowing costs for banks overnight, which follows a move earlier this week to inject cash into the country's five biggest banks. The actions are easing concerns about recent data showing a slowdown in China's economic growth, partly because it suggests Chinese authorities are being proactive in taking such measures that showed effectiveness in the past.

But the weakness in copper prices this morning is a reflection that not all is well with the economy. New house prices dropped in 68 of the state-tracked 70 cities in August from July, China's statistics bureau said today - an ominous sign for future copper demand.

The Fed did a balancing act with its latest guidance to markets Wednesday, increasing their estimates for when future borrowing costs will rise but also playing down fears that it will pull the trigger on higher rates before the economy can absorb such measures. For now, that appears to be enough for investors to feel more comfortable in holding equities.

The most significant change in the Fed's statement Wednesday from the last one in June was new rate projections; for the end of next year, the median projection was 1.375 per cent, compared to 1.125 per cent in June. The Street overall thinks the first rate hike will come in mid-2015, although there continues to be thoughts it could come earlier in the year if economic data shows continued strength.

Meanwhile, European forex and credit market players will be closely watching today's referendum on Scotland independence. The latest polls suggest the 'no' side will come out on top, but it will be close.

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



Futures: S&P 500 +0.28 per cent; Dow +0.22 per cent; Nasdaq +0.30 per cent; S&P/TSX +0.25 per cent

Hong Kong's Hang Seng -0.85 per cent

Shanghai composite index +0.35 per cent

Japan's Nikkei +1.13 per cent

London's FTSE 100 +0.46 per cent

Germany's DAX +0.98 per cent

France's CAC 40 +0.62 per cent

Stoxx 600 +0.76 per cent


WTI crude oil (Nymex Nov) +0.01 per cent at $93.21 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Dec) -1.22 per cent at $1,220.80 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Dec) -1.43 per cent at $3.10 (U.S.) a pound


Canadian dollar at 91.08 (U.S.), up 0.0031

U.S. dollar index up 0.18 at 84.52


U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.62 per cent, down 0.002


U.S. initial jobless claims last week fell to 280,000, a better reading the 305,000 that was expected and below the previous week's 315,000.

U.S. housing starts in August fell to 956,000 from 1.093 million when annualized. That was below expectations for 1.037 million. Building permits were also slightly below economists' expectations.


Penn West Petroleum provided results of an internal review of accounting practices and filed restarted financial statements. It said the results would have no impact on its strategic direction. Shares are up 4.4 per cent in the premarket.

Air Canada, following in the footsteps of WestJet earlier this week, has announced it will start charging some customers for their first piece of checked-in luggage.

Rite Aid cut its full-year profit forecast for the second time this year as lower margins from its pharmacy business continue to eat into earnings Rite Aid shares fell nearly 9 per cent in premarket trading after the company also shaved the top end of its sales forecast.

Other earnings today include: Gluskin Sheff; Cintas; ConAgra Foods; Oracle; Pier 1 Imports; Red Hat.


Canaccord Genuity upgraded Brookfield Asset Management to "buy" from "hold" with a price target of $55 (US).

RBC Dominion Securities upgraded Vermilion Energy to "outperform" from "sector perform" and maintained a price target of $81 (Canadian).

Canaccord Genuity raised its price target on Alliance Grain Traders to $33 (Canadian) from $29 and maintained a "buy" rating.

RBC Dominion Securities cut its price target on Oncolytics Biotech to $3 (Canadian) from $5 and maintained an "outperform" rating.


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The stock buyback boom is slowing.

What market breadth is saying about equities right now.

Bloomberg Businessweek's interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook.


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