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Equity Markets

Canada's main stock index was little changed shortly after the open on Wednesday as gains in the financial and energy sectors were offset by broader losses led by mining and industrial firms.

The Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index fell 3.58 points, or 0.02 percent, to 15,139.83.

Seven of the index's 10 key groups lost ground.

Wall Street opened lower on Wednesday, after a two-day rally, weighed down by a drop in Apple and as North Korea showed a trademark defiance over new U.N. sanctions.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 15.87 points, or 0.07 per cent, to 22,102.99. The S&P 500 lost 3.44 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 2,493.04. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 13.55 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 6,440.74.

Apple's shares fell 1 per cent in early trading after the highly-anticipated iPhone X was launched with a pricey $999 tag and a Nov. 3 shipping date that raised questions about supply constraints ahead of the holiday season.

Outside the corporate sphere, Statistics Canada released its latest batch of census data before the open on Wednesday. The report showed that the median incomes of individuals in Canada rose 12.7 per cent between 2005 and 2015, to $34,204, adjusting for inflation. For Canadians in all household types, median income rose 10.8 per cent between 2005 and 2015, to $70,336.

Overseas, European markets were mixed. The pan-European STOXX 600 was trading down in early going on weakness in chip makers and miners. Britain's FTSE was down 0.38 per cent. France's CAC 40 edged up 0.2 per cent. Germany's DAX rose 0.3 per cent.

David Madden, markets analyst for CMC Markets U.K., attributed the weaker early showing - with followed a positive run in recent days - to traders taking profits.

"The positive run at the beginning of the week on the back of stalling tensions surrounding North Korea, and Hurricane Irma not being as destructive as initially expected has run out of steam," he said.

In Asia, markets finished mixed. Japan's Nikkei advanced nearly half a percentage point, helped by a lower yen. Banks and auto makers were among the sectors posting gains for the day. Hong Kong's Hang Seng, meanwhile, slid 78.16 points to finish at 27,894.08. The Shanghai composite index slid 0.18 per cent.

Commodities

Oil prices were higher early Wednesday on a report from the International Energy Agency suggesting the global crude overhang is easing on better-than-expected demand growth in Europe and the U.S. alongside production cuts in OPEC.

The Paris-based agency hiked its global oil demand growth to 1.6 million barrels a day from 1.5 million barrels. "OECD demand growth continues to be stronger than expected, particularly in Europe and the U.S.," the IEA said in the report.

Both West Texas Intermediate and Brent were trading higher in the wake of the report. Overnight, WTI had been languishing in a fairly narrow band, but found its footing predawn. The day's range so far for WTI is $48.12 (U.S.) a barrel to $48.77.

On Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute reported that U.S. crude inventories rose by 6.18 million barrels last week as refineries resumed activities following hurricane-related disruptions. The weekly inventory report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is due Wednesday.

"Analysts expect 4.1-million-barrel rise in last week's inventories versus 4.6 million printed a week earlier," Ms. Ozkardeskaya said. "A positive surprise could encourage a further recovery to $49.00/$49.50."

In other commodities, gold was steady as a weaker dollar and comments from U.S. President Donald Trump. On Tuesday, Mr. Trump called U.N. sanctions against North Korea a small step. The comments were seen underpinning demand for safe-haven holdings.

Spot gold prices were modestly positive. Gold futures for December delivery were also a touch higher early on. Silver prices were lower. London copper prices hit a three-week low on higher inventories and concern about future demand in China.

Currencies and bonds

The Canadian dollar was modestly higher, moving within a day range of 82.06 cents (U.S.) to 82.40 cents after closing the previous day's session at 82.24 cents.

There were no key economic releases on the calendar to offer direction for the loonie. The U.S. dollar, meanwhile, was slightly lower in early going. The dollar index, which weighs the greenback against a basket of currencies, was trading down slightly and holding just above the two-and-a-half year lows seen last week. When it comes to the greenback, the markets are on hold waiting for inflation news on Thursday and the policy announcement from the Federal Reserve next week.

"Now it's 'wait and see' for U.S. dollar investors," she said, adding that the only other factor that would be likely to trigger a significant move would be any further escalation of tensions around North Korea," Commerzbank currency strategist Esther Reichelt told Reuters.

In other currencies, Britain's pound added to Tuesday's gains, which came on a stronger-than-expected reading on U.K. inflation. The pound managed to touch its highest level in a year early on, trading abover $1.33 (U.S.).

Outside traditional currencies, bitcoin fell nearly 5 per cent after JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon labelled the cryptocurrency a "fraud." Mr. Dimon said at a bank investor conference that if any JPMorgan traders were trading the bitcoin, "I would fire them in a second, for two reasons: It is against our rules and they are stupid, and both are dangerous."

In bonds, U.S. Treasurys were higher ahead of the release of the U.S. producer price index, a gauge of inflation at the factory gate. The yield on the U.S. 10-year note was lower at 2.16 per cent and the yield on the 30-year note was lower at 2.761 per cent.

Stocks set to see action

Brookfield Infrastructure Partners LP is on the cusp of its second decade, and chief executive officer Sam Pollock is shoring up capital while preparing to welcome a new slate of index investors to mark the occasion, The Globe's Jacqueline Nelson reports.  As soon as next week, BIP will mark a long-awaited milestone when it becomes a fixture on the S&P/TSX composite index, after recent changes to the eligibility requirements. BIP has been seeking the recognition for years, craving not only a higher profile but also access to the fast-growing group of exchange-traded funds.

Canopy Growth Corp. has signed an agreement with AusCann Group Holdings Ltd. to be its exclusive supplier of medical cannabis for the Australian market. Canada's largest licensed cannabis producer says it will start with the transfer of a range of medicines for research and commercialization in Australia. The deal allows Canopy to pursue other Australian opportunities. The agreement follows a partnership deal last year that saw Canopy take stake in AusCann in exchange for expertise in a number of areas including production, quality assurance and operations.

Viacom Inc.'s MTV network had its first summer of ratings growth in six years, the network told Reuters this week, a sign that the company is seeing progress wooing back coveted younger viewers who watch shows online. Viacom is in the midst of a turnaround to improve declining ratings and ad revenue by focusing on six core networks, including MTV under its new Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish. Once known as the edgy network for cool kids, MTV lost its luster in recent years as the former Viacom management failed to invest in programming or a digital strategy.

Greece's Energy Minister assured protesting Eldorado Gold workers on Wednesday that it would grant outstanding permits this week to enable the Canadian miner to fully operate one of its Greek projects. Eldorado Gold threatened on Monday to suspend investment at three Greek projects, demanding permits and clarifications on an upcoming arbitration process. Dozens of Eldorado Gold workers rallied outside the energy ministry earlier in protest at potential job losses. Differences over the investment, one of the biggest in Greece in years, have dragged on for years, especially over compliance with environmental regulations, testing Greece's resolve to encourage foreign investments. The company said on Monday that no additional investment would be made into Olympias and Skouries projects and the Stratoni mine from Sept. 22, only days after the leftist-led government urged investors to show confidence in Greece as it emerges from crisis.

Mark Tucker, the incoming chairman of HSBC, will likely face questions over who will take over as CEO when he meets investors in Europe's biggest bank ahead of taking up his post at the lender in October, Reuters reports. Tucker takes over from Douglas Flint on Oct. 1 and one of his first priorities when he meets shareholders from next week will be deciding on whether to appoint an outsider to succeed Stuart Gulliver or look within the bank instead. Gulliver, who has been HSBC's boss since 2011 and joined the bank 37 years ago, is due to step down next year. Tucker, who previously led Asian insurance giant AIA Group and British insurer Prudential, is the first outsider to become HSBC's chairman in the lender's 152-year history. Like the chairmanship, HSBC has only ever promoted internal candidates to become its chief executive.

Air Berlin was forced to cancel flights for a second day on Wednesday after pilots again called in sick in unusually high numbers, potentially complicating efforts to rescue the insolvent carrier. Air Berlin, Germany's second-biggest airline, is set to be carved up, most likely among several buyers, with binding offers due this Friday. The airline filed for bankruptcy protection last month after its biggest shareholder, Etihad Airways, withdrew funding following years of losses.

Nordstrom Inc.'s founding family has selected private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners to help take the high-end retailer private, according to a source familiar with the matter. The family and Leonard Green are working on a formal bid that could be submitted in the next few weeks, the source said. Its shares rose 6.35 per cent in premarket trading.

More reading: Wednesday's small-cap stocks to watch
More reading: Wednesday's Insider Report: Companies insiders are buying and selling

Economic News

The pace of Canadian home price growth slowed in August as prices in Toronto dropped for the first time in 19 months as sales in the city have declined following provincial government efforts to rein in the market, Reuters reports. The Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index, which measures changes for repeat sales of single-family homes, showed prices rose 0.6 per cent last month from July, less than the August average of 0.7 per cent. In Toronto, Canada's largest city, prices were down 0.4 per cent, the first decline since January 2016. Price weakness was seen in particular among homes other than condominiums, such as single-family homes, the report said.

The U.S. Labor Department says its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, rose 0.2 per cent last month. It was the largest monthly increase since a 0.5 per cent gain in April. Inflationary pressures have largely been subdued in recent months. Much of the increase in August came from a 3.3 per cent surge in energy costs. Food expenses slipped in August, including a sharp 20.6 per cent decline in wheat prices. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy costs, also rose 0.1 per cent last month. Over the past 12 months, wholesale prices are up a moderate 2.4 per cent while core prices have risen 2.0 per cent.


(10:30 a.m. ET) EIA Petroleum Status Report is released

With files from Reuters

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