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Equities

Canada’s main stock index fell at the start of trading Monday with crude prices down and investors awaiting the federal government’s fiscal update later in the day. South of the border, key indexes also started in the red but still looked set to book big gains for the month.

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At 9:36 a.m. ET, the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 93.51 points, or 0.54 per cent, at 17,303.05.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 55.86 points, or 0.19 per cent, at the open to 29,854.51.

The S&P 500 opened lower by 4.17 points, or 0.11 per cent, at 3,634.18, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 18.40 points, or 0.15 per cent, to 12,224.25 at the opening bell.

Sentiment was hit early Monday by reports that the Trump administration is poised to add China’s top chipmaker SMIC and oil and gas producer CNOOC to a black list of alleged Chinese military companies, according to a Reuters report. A recent executive order issued by President Donald Trump would prevent U.S. investors from buying securities of the listed firms starting late next year.

“As we move through what looks to be a messy December for risk, especially as the Georgia [Senate] run-off becomes more increasingly focused, more investors are forced to react, especially as everyone thinks about protecting performance into year-end,” Axi chief global market strategist Stephen Innes said.

In this country, investors will get the federal government’s latest economic update Monday afternoon. The Globe has reported that the fall update is expected to focus on immediate pandemic challenges, including new aid for sectors like retail, hospitality and tourism while revealing a projected deficit that exceeds the record $343.2-billion announced last summer. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s fiscal update is also expected to provide a breakdown of pandemic-related spending to date. The update is due after the close of trading.

Later in the week, investors will also get earnings from Canada’s biggest banks. Bank of Montreal and Scotiabank report on Tuesday, Royal Bank on Wednesday and Toronto-Dominion on Thursday.

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The results are expected to show easing fears about a possible wave of loan defaults ease, although revenues remain under pressure, hurt by low interest rates and weaker demand for new loans in categories that earn higher returns.

Overseas, major European markets were little changed by afternoon, with the pan-European STOXX 600 treading water. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.07 per cent. Germany’s DAX gained 0.64 per cent. France’s CAC 40 was off 0.21 per cent.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished down 0.79 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 2.06 per cent.

Commodities

Crude prices were weaker in early going but still set for sharp monthly gains as markets await a decision from OPEC and its allies about extending current production caps into the new year.

The day range on Brent is US$46.85 to US$47.95. The range on West Texas Intermediate is US$44.42 to US$45.42.

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Both benchmarks are heading for monthly gains of more than 20 per cent, buoyed by recent optimism over a potential of a COVID-19 vaccine. If the monthly gains hold, they would mark the best performance since May.

Markets are now awaiting the outcome of talks among members of the OPEC+ group about future production curbs. The group is scheduled to boost production in January, but markets are expecting those increases to be delayed as the market adapts to the latest wave of coronavirus infections and related lockdowns.

OPEC+ held initial talks on Sunday but failed to reach a consensus. Official meetings are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

“Russia along with others are keen to maintain the current output plans that are in place,” CMC Markets analyst David Madden said.

“While Kazakhstan and the UAE are eager to raise output, as was originally planned. The nations need to reach a deal otherwise at the start of the New Year output will be increased by 2 million barrels per day.”

In other commodities, gold prices fell early Monday and looked headed for its worst month since late 2016.

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Spot gold fell 0.7 per cent to US$1,775.11 per ounce, shedding 5.4 per cent this month. Gold also hit its lowest since July 2 at US$1,764.29 earlier in the session.

U.S. gold futures dropped 0.7 per cent to US$1,775.70.

“Vaccine-inspired optimism about an economic bounce is really eroding the attraction of safe-haven investments like gold,” Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets, said.

Copper prices, meanwhile, hit the highest in more than seven years.

Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange had gained 1.7 per cent to US$7,625 a tonne after touching US$7,692.50, the strongest since March 2013.

Copper is up 13.5 per cent in November and on track for its biggest monthly gain since late 2016.

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Currencies

The Canadian dollar traded above 77 US cents in early going as its U.S. counterpart weakened on world markets and investors await key economic reports later in the week.

The day range on the loonie is 76.91 US cents to 77.11 US cents.

On Tuesday, Statistics Canada releases its report on September and third-quarter GDP.

However, Alvin Tan, Asia FX strategist with RBC, says those figures are now looking dated with the early estimate on October growth likely being the report’s most interesting element.

“Relatively solid early indicators suggest a mild gain (0.2-0.3 per cent) before expected declines in November and December,” he said.

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On Friday, markets will get November employment figures. Mr. Tan says RBC expects the six-month streak of gains to stop in November with a 50,000 decline now forecast. That would see the unemployment rate edge up to 9.1 per cent from 8.9 per cent, he said.

On global markets, the U.S. dollar index was sitting at 91.654 in early trading in London and looks set to post a November decline of more than 2 per cent, according to figures from Reuters.

The offshore yuan is on course for its longest streak of monthly gains in six years, boosted by China’s economic recovery from the coronavirus and steady capital inflows. Early Monday, it was broadly flat on the day at 6.5760 versus the dollar.

Elsewhere, the euro rose to three-month highs of US$1.19830. Brexit negotiations are still the focus for Britain’s pound, which was steady against the euro at 89.83 pence per euro.

More company news

The Globe’s Jeffrey Jones reports that four directors are resigning from the board of Artis Real Estate Investment Trust, and the company’s chief executive and chief financial officers are stepping down in a victory for activist investor Sandpiper Group. Under a settlement, Sandpiper’s five nominees will join the board at the end of the year, Winnipeg-based Artis said on Monday. The settlement ends a proxy fight almost three months before it was scheduled to come to a vote among unitholders.

Canadian security firm GardaWorld said on Monday it has further extended its cash offer for larger rival G4S, which has repeatedly rejected the hostile bid valuing the British company at about US$4 billion. The offer will remain open for acceptance until Dec. 16, GardaWorld said, after earlier extending the offer until Nov. 28. It received valid acceptances of a total of 2.8 million G4S shares, or 0.17%, as at Nov. 28.

Moderna Inc became the second U.S company to release full results from a large study of its experimental vaccine, saying it was 94.1% effective against COVID-19. It will seek emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and conditional approval from the European Union on Monday. Its analysis was based on 196 cases of COVID-19, 185 of which received a placebo with 11 receiving the vaccine. There were 30 severe cases in the placebo group and none among those that got the vaccine.

Data giant S&P Global Inc will buy IHS Markit Ltd in a deal valued at $44-billion including debt, the companies said on Monday, in what will be 2020′s biggest merger by value and create a heavyweight in the increasingly competitive market in financial information.

Volkswagen Group’s executive committee is convening on Tuesday to discuss Chief Executive Herbert Diess’s demand for a contract extension, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Monday. “The options will be put on the table,” one of the sources said, adding that the outcome of the deliberations remains unclear.

Economic news

(8:30 a.m. ET) Canada’s current account deficit for Q3.

(8:30 a.m. ET) Canada’s industrial product price index and raw materials price index for October.

(8:30 a.m. ET) Canadian building permits for October.

(9:45 a.m. ET) U.S. Chicago PMI for November.

(10 a.m. ET) U.S. pending home sales for October.

(4 p.m. ET) Ottawa’s Fall Economic Statement is released

With Reuters and The Canadian Press

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