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At the open: Dow hits record, RIM jumps on upgrade

Cyprus concerns are so yesterday, traders appear to be saying this morning, as North American stocks shot up at the open to levels last seen last week before prospects for a bank levy in the island nation had money flowing out of equities. The Dow Jones industrial average, in fact, edged up to its highest intraday level ever in the minutes after the opening bell.

Research In Motion Ltd. is one of the key advancers, climbing more than 6 per cent on a double-notch upgrade from influential Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley.

In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was up 43 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 12,817. The Dow was up 73 points, or 0.5 per cent, at 14,529 after earlier rising to 14,544 – eclipsing the intraday high record of 14,539.29 hit on March 14.

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The S&P 500 was up 8 points, or 0.5 per cent, at 1,556 – about 10 points away from its record closing high.

Markets are taking an optimistic stance on the still unresolved bailout efforts in Cyprus, hoping that policy makers will come up with another solution after its parliament Tuesday rejected a controversial tax on bank deposits.

Investors are also positioning themselves for today's U.S. Federal Reserve policy announcement at 2 p.m. (ET)  by assuming Chairman Ben Bernanke will offer supportive words on markets and the need to keep in place the central bank's ultra-easy monetary policy.

The European Central Bank now has to decide whether to give Cyprus more time to meet bailout requirements, or consider cutting off support to the nation's banks. The ECB's Governing Council meets today in Frankfurt, and Luxembourg Finance Minister Luc Frieden called for the 17 euro-area finance ministers to reconvene to consider a new rescue package. The levy on personal bank deposits, which sparked outrage and ignited global market fears of a spreading banking crisis, was rejected on Tuesday and effectively killed the previous bailout plan. Cyprus's finance minister is now pleading with Russia for financial aid.

Given that a bank levy now seems out of the picture, calming fears of bank runs in other, larger European nations, the bigger focus today may very well turn to Mr. Bernanke. Market players are betting that he'll offer a tepid economic outlook that won't suggest the need for any immediate withdrawal of its quantitative easing program and super-low interest rates. Fed officials have suggested recently that the labour market is still too weak to alter current monetary policy – and recent employment reports suggest a less-than-robust jobs picture in the country.

Here's a look at some stocks moving on news this morning:

Research In Motion Ltd. shares are up 6 per cent after Morgan Stanley upgraded the BlackBerry maker two notches from "underweight" to "overweight" and boosted its price target to $22 from $10 (U.S.). It cited encouragement over expanding gross margins for the devices and higher average selling prices as the company transitions to its BB10 devices. It expects shipments for BlackBerry 10 products could be relatively strong over the next few months as consumers make the transition from older products to new. "We have also detected a sentiment shift in the market in response to BB10, as the tone of our conversations with developers has become modestly more positive with many developers now taking a wait and see approach rather than completely writing off the OS," Morgan Stanley said.

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FedEx Corp. reported a worse-than-expected quarterly profit due to weakness in its air express business. Excluding items, FedEx earned $1.23 per share, missing Street forecasts for $1.38. Revenues rose 4 per cent to $11-billion, modestly beating forecasts. Shares are down 4 per cent.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. has struck an agreement to acquire skin-care company Obagi Medical Products Inc. for more than $300-million (U.S.). Valeant shares are up 3 per cent; Obagi shares surged 28 per cent.

Adobe Systems Inc. shares are up nearly 5 per cent after reporting better-than-expected earnings and sales.

Apple Inc. shares are flat. Canaccord Genuity this morning cut its price target by $50 to $600 (U.S.) but reiterated a "buy" rating. It said Apple could lose "meaningful" near-term market and profit share because of new Android devices.

Teck Resources Corp. shares are up 0.4 per cent after falling about 5 per cent on Tuesday amid lower copper prices and prospects that it could be buying into iron ore projects at a time of falling prices.

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About the Author
Investment Editor

Darcy Keith is The Globe and Mail's Investment Editor. He has been a business journalist since 1992 and joined the Report on Business in 2010 from Yahoo! Canada, where he was the senior editor of finance. More

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