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Equities

Canada’s main stock index slipped in early trading Friday with mining stocks weighing on the back of weaker gold prices. South of the border, Wall Street’s key indexes gained at the open with optimism over potential COVID-19 vaccines helping underpin sentiment.

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At 9:30 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 24.85 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 17,326.49.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38.86 points, or 0.13 per cent, at the open to 29,911.33.

The S&P 500 opened higher by 8.90 points, or 0.25 per cent, at 3,638.55, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 64.78 points, or 0.54 per cent, to 12,159.18.

“The U.S. stock market reopens today for a half day but volatility is likely to be quiet across the board – it is typically the case following Thanksgiving,” CMC Markets analyst David Madden said.

“The excitement that we saw at the start of the week with respect to the progress made by AstraZeneca-Oxford University on their COVID-19 vaccine and the hopes that President [Donald] Trump will leave office quietly in January will probably be the main points the week.”

AstraZeneca is likely to run an additional global trial to assess the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine using a lower dosage, its chief executive was quoted as saying on Thursday. Instead of adding the trial to an ongoing U.S. process, AstraZeneca might launch a fresh study to evaluate a lower dosage of its vaccine that performed better than a full dosage, Pascal Soriot was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg report.

Several scientists have raised questions about the robustness of results released on Monday showing the experimental vaccine was 90-per-cent effective in a sub-group of trial participants who, by error initially, received a half dose followed by a full dose.

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On the corporate side, The Globe’s Andrew Willis reports this morning that Rogers Communications Inc., owner of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, and the real estate arm of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. want to demolish the Rogers Centre and construct a new stadium as part of a downtown Toronto redevelopment. Rogers and Brookfield are working with city, provincial and federal government officials on a plan that would effectively cut the Rogers Centre in half. The partners would build a new, baseball-focused stadium on the foundations of the southern end of the current facility and adjacent parking lots.

Empire Company Ltd., which operates Sobeys, Safeway, FreshCo, IGA and others, has confirmed it has reinstated pay bonuses for some front-line workers in areas where governments have imposed new lockdowns. The company says it is paying bonuses to employees in Toronto and Ontario’s Peel Region, as well as in Manitoba. Those jurisdictions are under lockdown again in a bid to control a surge of new COVID-19 cases. The bonuses took effect Nov. 12 in Manitoba and Monday in the Ontario regions. They will be paid every two months.

Overseas, the pan-European STOXX 600 was little changed by afternoon. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.49 per cent. Germany’s DAX gained 0.22 per cent and France’s CAC 40 rose 0.57 per cent.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished up 0.40 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.28 per cent.

Commodities

The recent rally in crude prices stalled in early going but oil still looked set for solid weekly gains as traders await the outcome of OPEC+ talks in the days ahead.

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The day range on Brent is US$47.34 to US$48.13. The range on West Texas Intermediate is US$44.55 to US$46.09. Lighter volume was expected Friday, with U.S. equity markets open for just half the day.

Both benchmarks look set for weekly gains of about 6 per cent after touching their best levels since March earlier in the week.

The price rally took a slight hit on questions about the results of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and reports of disagreements within the OPEC group. Earlier this week, reports suggested that United Arab Emirates was questioning its role within OPEC. However, on Thursday, Energy Minister Suhail Al-Mazrouei said the UAE “has always been a committed member” although he didn’t directly address whether the government was reconsidering its future with the group.

OPEC and its allies are scheduled to start a two-day meeting on Monday to discuss putting off production increases now set for January. Markets have been expecting the group to delay the increase as the rise in COVID-19 restrictions around the world raises questions about the rebound in demand. A Reuters report says an OPEC panel will hold informal online discussions on Saturday ahead of next week’s meeting.

“Crude oil prices have started to slip back after some big gains as rumblings from some of the smaller OPEC countries about extending the current output curbs for another three months,” CMC chief markets analyst Michael Hewson said.

“OPEC is looking to extend the current production caps; however, this is getting some pushback from the likes of Iraq and the UAE who want to start upping their output, at a time when economic activity in 2021 could start to see a significant pickup.”

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In other commodities, Gold eased and looked set for their third consecutive weekly decline.

Spot gold fell 0.1 per cent to US$1,808.90 per ounce, down 3.3 per cent on the week. U.S. gold futures rose 0.1 per cent to $1,806.80.

“The street is keeping an eye out for a potential test of $1800 in gold later today,” Axi chief market strategist Stephen Innes said in a note.

Currencies

The Canadian dollar was sitting just below 77 US cents as its U.S. counterpart looked set for a weekly decline against a group of world currencies.

The day range on the loonie is 76.78 US cents to 76.98 US cents.

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“USD is broadly softer [Friday] and DXY is back to close to yesterday’s low, reversing most of the afternoon bounce,” RBC chief currency strategist Adam Cole said.

There were no major Canadian economic releases on Friday’s calendar. On Thursday, Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem and senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins appeared before the House of Commons finance committee for their semi-annual testimony.

Mr. Cole said their comments closely mirrored those in the most recent monetary policy report, although Mr. Macklem “did set out a timeline of how the bank could exit QE when the time comes, though he was clear that this is some way off yet.”

On world markets, the U.S. dollar index was down 0.1 per cent at 91.953 in London, near its lowest level in three months.

The Australian dollar - seen by the markets as a proxy for risk - hit its highest in nearly three months in early London trading and was up 0.2 per cent at 73.75 US cents, according to figures from Reuters.

Dollar-yen was down 0.2 per cent at 104.03. China’s offshore yuan was on track for its first week of net losses versus the dollar this month.

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The euro was up 0.1 per cent at US$1.1925. Britain’s pound was steady at US$1.3369 as UK investors watched Brexit negotiations for signs of progress.

More company news

Calfrac Well Services Ltd. says the Alberta Court of Appeal has rejected an attempt by Wilks Brothers LLC to block the approval of the company’s recapitalization plan. The company says it has been advised by the court that the Wilks Brothers’ appeal of the final order approving the plan has been dismissed. Texas-based Wilks Brothers had opposed Calfrac’s recapitalization plan and offered its own hostile takeover offer as an option.

China’s Shandong Gold Mining Co said on Friday it had been notified by the authorities in Canada that they would extend a security review into the company’s bid to acquire an Arctic gold mine by at least 45 days. Canada’s federal cabinet ordered the review of Shandong Gold’s proposed $230-million takeover of TMAC Resources, which operates the Hope Bay mine in the northern and strategically important territory of Nunavut, in mid-October.

Economic news

Canada’s fiscal monitor for September

With Reuters and The Canadian Press

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