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These are stories Report on Business is following Friday, Jan. 10, 2014.

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Winners and ... bigger winners
Bank of Montreal's chief economist takes a look today at who wins, and who really wins, from the erosion of the loonie.

As always in such things, much of it depends on where investors placed their bets.

"Besides the obvious winners from a weaker currency – manufacturing, tourism, resources, NHL players who reside in Canada and just recently signed fat US$-based contracts – domestic investors who were shrewd enough to overweight in U.S. stocks have fared spectacularly well," Douglas Porter said.

"The double-headed lift of a strong S&P 500 and a rising US$ have created the biggest performance gap between U.S. and Canadian stocks in common currency terms since 1998/99."

During that period, Mr. Porter noted, American equities were "feasting" on the dot-com boom as the Asian crisis whacked Canadian resource stocks.

In Canadian-dollar terms, Mr. Porter said, the benchmark S&P 500 index has shot up by more than 38 per cent over the past year.

That, he pointed it, is almost 30 per cent more than the 9-per-cent gain in the S&P/TSX composite.

"A third of that gap is due to the C$ alone," he said.

His comments come as the loonie, as Canada's dollar coin is known, continues to hover around the 92-cent mark this morning.

Markets await jobs reports
Global markets are awaiting the key U.S. jobs report later this morning, but they're at least perky to start the day.

"Looking ahead to the U.S. session … it is all about this year's first non-farm payrolls figures and the U.S. unemployment levels," said market analyst Alastair McCaig of IG in London.

"Currently at 7 per cent, unemployment in the U.S. has long been touted as one of the biggest barometers for interest-rate change. Last night saw the unofficial start of the latest U.S. reporting season, with Alcoa releasing its fourth-quarter figures."

Tokyo's Nikkei gained 0.2 per cent, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng 0.3 per cent.

In Europe, London's FTSE 100, Germany's DAX and the Paris CAC 40 were up by about 1 per cent by about 8:10 a.m. ET.

Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 futures also gained.

Investors, of course, are still trying to read the tea leaves after the Federal Reserve's December decision to start cutting back on its monthly bond purchases, a stimulus scheme known as quantitative easing, or QE.

The Fed is scaling back the monthly $85-billion (U.S.) program by $10-billion, and markets are looking for a sense of whether the pullback will speed up. A strong jobs report would feed into that.

"Today's job report will provide much of the impetus to markets in terms of whether we will see a continuation of the asset purchase scale-back in the January meeting," said research analyst Joshua Mahony of Alpari, referring to the U.S. central bank's next policy setting.

"Previous assurances over whether we will see a further pullback in QE in the near term have centred upon the notion that they will be 'data dependant," he added.

"However, none of the data seen out of the U.S. means more to the fate of the asset purchase program than the jobs report. For this reason, the ability to maintain continued strength in the employment recovery will be key and markets are expecting exactly that."

China soars
China is now believed to be the world's largest trading nation, coming in today with a "very impressive" surplus.

According to official data, Chinese trade surged in 2013 to almost $4.2-trillion, which should put it ahead of the United States, though America's numbers aren't yet known, according to The Financial Times.

As Derek Holt and Dov Zigler of Bank of Nova Scotia noted, China's December numbers were disappointing, with growth in exports slowing to 4.3 per cent.

Still, "the net leaves China with a very impressive trade surplus for 2013," its fattest, at almost $260-billion, since the recession.

"This year's surge saw the trade surplus return to the pre-crisis levels that had the U.S. up in arms over global trade imbalances," the Scotiabank economists said.

Good news, too, for China's commodity-exporting trading partners as such imports climbed.

In brief
Keep an eye on shares of Gap Inc. today, which are up 1.7 per cent in premarket action, after the U.S. retailer's announcement that it expects full-year earnings per share at the "high end" of its earlier forecast of $2.57 (U.S.) to $2.65.

Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. is also in the spotlight, its shares up by more than 14 per cent in premarket after it hiked its projection for full-year profit to between $1.55 a share and $1.65, compared to its earlier $1.40 to $1.50.

Then there's Alcoa Inc., whose stock is down 6 per cent in the premarket hours after its fourth-quarter results fell shy of what analysts had projected.

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