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Equities

Wall Street futures were mixed early Friday with concerns about coronavirus restrictions and news the U.S. Treasury was ending emergency loan programs weighing on sentiment. Major European markets edged higher in morning trading. TSX futures were little changed as crude prices held steady.

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Dow futures were weaker ahead of the North American open, although off early morning lows. S&P and Nasdaq futures were essentially flat. On Thursday, the Dow managed modest gains. The S&P 500 rose 0.4 per cent and the Nasdaq gained 0.9 per cent. The TSX/Composite Index edged up 0.12 per cent.

Major indexes on both sides of the border saw a muted start Friday as concerns about rising coronavirus infections and related restrictions offset positive headlines about the potential for a COVID-19 vaccine.

At 9:30 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was up 1.89 points, or 0.01%, at 16,911.7.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 45.66 points, or 0.15 per cent, at the open to 29,437.57.

The S&P 500 opened lower by 2.56 points, or 0.07 per cent, at 3,579.31, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 12.02 points, or 0.10 per cent, to 11,892.70 at the opening bell.

The investor mood took a hit in the wake of news that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, in a letter to Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, said the US$455-billion allocated to Treasury under the CARES Act should be instead available for Congress to reallocate.

That report, however, was offset somewhat by comments from Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had agreed to revive talks on a new fiscal relief package.

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“Stimulus remains a significant theme for markets, with the continued failings at Congress now accompanied by a move from the U.S. Treasury to withdraw the CARES act despite Fed extension requests,” IG senior market analyst Joshua Mahony said.

“With the Fed seeking a 90-day extension to the four emergency lending programs currently in place, Steven Mnuchin’s rejection highlights an end to the kind of support needed to stave off a deeper economic collapse.”

Global markets also continue to contend with heightened restrictions in some regions aimed at combatting the spread of the coronavirus. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an advisory to Americans recommending that they avoid travel ahead of next week’s Thanksgiving holiday. California’s governor, meanwhile has issued a limited stay-at-home order for most of that states residents. In this country, the Ontario government is expected later Friday to outline further restrictions to curb spiking infection figures.

Early Friday, Pfizer Inc said it has applied to U.S. health regulators for emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine. The application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) comes just days after Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE reported final trial results that showed the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 with no major safety concerns.

Canadian investors also got a better-than-expected reading on retail sales in September. Statistics Canada said sales for the month jumped 1.1 per cent to $53.9-billion. Economists had been expecting an increase closer to 0.2 per cent. The agency said sales were higher in nine of 11 subsectors. September marked the fifth straight monthly increase.

On the corporate side, The Globe’s Barry Hertz reports that Cineplex Inc., the country’s largest exhibitor with 1,687 screens, and Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, one of Hollywood’s biggest studios, announced a multiyear deal that will dramatically decrease the time it takes for movies to go from theatres to living rooms.

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Under the agreement, Universal guarantees that its titles, as well as those of its art-house division Focus Features, will have 17 days of theatrical exclusivity at Cineplex locations, after which point Universal has the option of sending its movies directly to premium video-on-demand (PVOD) platforms, including Cineplex’s online store.

Overseas, the pan-European STOXX 600 was up 0.27 per cent. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.35 per cent in morning trading. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.15 per cent and 0.20 per cent, respectively.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished down 0.42 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng advanced 0.36 per cent.

Commodities

Crude prices edged higher on renewed hopes for fresh U.S. stimulus measures and looked set for a third week of gains.

The day range on Brent so far is US$44.05 to US$44.46. The range on West Texas Intermediate is US$41.51 US$41.88.

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Both benchmarks are on track for weekly gains of about 3 per cent.

“Both contracts continue to consolidate at the upper end of their November ranges,” OANDA senior analyst Jeffrey Halley said in a note.

“However, momentum has notably waned, and both are vulnerable to negative headline surprises now.”

He said prices drew some support from news of the possibility of new U.S. fiscal stimulus talks although there remains “the possibility that long positions will continue to be trimmed into the end of the week, as the initial enthusiasm of the US talks fades.”

Optimism over OPEC+ talks at the end of the month has also supported prices through the week. Markets are increasingly expecting the group to delay a planned production increase, scheduled for January, amid rising coronavirus infections and increased restrictions around the world.

“It is all down to OPEC,” Axi chief global market strategist Stephen Innes said.

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“No formal decision will be taken before the full OPEC+ ministerial meeting at the end of this month. Still, with the rise in coronavirus infections and new mobility restrictions, it seems...kind of likely that an extension will be undertaken to support sentiment, tighten the market, and avoid a pullback in oil prices.”

In other commodities, gold prices were set for a second straight weekly.

Spot gold slid 0.1 per cent to US$1,866.28 per ounce and was down 1.1 per cent for the week.

U.S. gold futures were up 0.3 per cent at US$1,867.90.

Currencies

The Canadian dollar was slightly firmer as the U.S. dollar steadied against global currencies.

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The day range on the loonie is 76.41 US cents to 76.64 US cents. The loonie strengthened after Statistics Canada said retail sales rose by 1.1 per cent in September, better than the 0.2-per-cent increase economists had been forecasting. The loonie was near the upper end of the day spread after the release of the report.

On world markets, the U.S. dollar index, which weighs the greenback against the a basket of world currencies, was flat at 92.335. The index is down about 0.5 per cent for the week as markets react to positive recent news about a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The Japanese yen was down around 0.1 per cent against the U.S. dollar, at 103.84.

The euro was flat against the U.S. dollar, at US$1.18725, on track for a small weekly gain, according to figures from Reuters.

“There is simply a lack of new impulses at present to let EUR-USD break out of the range of 1.16-1.19,” Commerzbank strategist You-Na Park-Heger said.

“Yes, there is still optimistic news regarding a possible vaccine, but the euphoria about that question has eased notably,” she said, adding that the European Central Bank is expected to increase stimulus in December.

More company news

Boralex Inc. said Friday it would pay $121.5-million to buy the 49-per-cent equity stake held by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec in three wind farms in Quebec. Boralex already owns the other 51-per-cent interest.

General Atlantic-backed e-commerce firm Wish on Friday made public its regulatory filing for an initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq, joining a host of companies rushing to take advantage of investor appetite for new listings. In its S-1 filing, the San Francisco-based bargain shopping app reported revenue of $1.7 billion for the nine months ended Sept. 30, an increase of 32% from a year earlier.

Fiat Chrysler’s merger with Peugeot maker PSA will include a loyalty scheme to reward long-term investors and help prevent future takeover attempts, the prospectus for the planned tie-up shows. Italian-American carmaker Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and France’s PSA agreed to combine in a $38-billion all-share deal in December, uniting brands such as Fiat, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Maserati with the likes of Peugeot, Opel, Citroen and DS. Holders of shares in Stellantis - as the merged group will be known - for an uninterrupted period of at least three years may receive a special voting share in addition to each common share, the companies said in the prospectus.

Verizon Media, a unit of Verizon Communications Inc, said on Thursday it would sell its news website HuffPost to BuzzFeed, in a deal that will make it a minority shareholder in the online media firm. The companies did not disclose more details on the deal.

Amazon has bowed to government pressure to postpone its “Black Friday” discount shopping sales in France to help local shopkeepers struggling with a nationwide lockdown. To level the playing field, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire this week called on supermarkets and online retailers to postpone Black Friday, which runs from Nov. 27 to Nov. 29, as shops selling non-essential goods would have to remain closed during lockdown.

Economic news

(8:30 a.m. ET) Canadian retail sales for September.

With Reuters and The Canadian Press

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