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Before the Bell: TSX stocks to open lower as oil falls

The Before the Bell report is compiled by editors of The Globe and Mail and is updated throughout the morning to reflect latest developments. Colin Cieszynski, Chartered Financial Analyst and Chartered Market Technician, is chief market strategist with CMC Markets.

Stock markets are steady again this morning with traders looking for the next catalyst to make a move. Although stocks look tired and some profit-taking may be starting, so far declines have been offset by capital still coming in from the sidelines. Don't forget that tax deadlines for retirement contributions is around now or has just passed in several countries and that money may be getting put to work chasing this rally.

‎Indexes around the world remain mixed. The Nikkei fell nearly 0.5 per cent while the Hang Seng rose 0.4 per cent. U.S. index futures are down 0.1 per cent, the FTSE and the Dax are down 0.2 per cent.

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West Texas Intermediate crude oil is down 1 per cent following a huge ‎11.2-million-barrel (mbbl) increase in American Petroleum Institute inventories which indicates the big build isn't over yet. The Canadian dollar is trading lower in sympathy and this could also impact energy stocks. Department of Energy reports are due mid morning which could also have an impact on energy trading.

China's trade report was mixed with a surprise deficit driven by a big surge in imports.

Sterling has been sliding ahead of today's U.K. budget and reeling from yesterday's passage in the House of Lords of a second amendment giving Parliament more say over a final Brexit deal by enabling lawmakers the ability to send the government back to negotiate further not just take it or leave it. Based on their reaction, traders seem to think that this could muddy the process or weaken the government's hand in negotiations.

The U.K. budget speech is underway. Chancellor Philip Hammond has been talking up the positive impact of Brexit on the U.K. so far, as the government raises its 2017 GDP growth forecast to 2.0 per cent from 1.4 per cent, above the OECD's recent 1.7 per cent forecast. Inflation is expected to run 2.4 per cent this year. The government has cut its borrowing projection for this year to £51B from £62B. The FTSE has been holding steady since the speech started, the British pound has been climbing, indicating the street sees the speech so far as neutral to slightly positive.

Wednesday also brings the first U.S. payroll reports. Following comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that the Fed plans to review employment and inflation trends in the U.S. with the potential for a rate increase at next week's meeting, this week's ADP and nonfarm payroll reports for February in the U.S. could attract a lot of attention.

Companies unexpectedly accelerated the pace of hiring in the U.S. in February, data from the ADP Research Institute in Roseland, New Jersey, showed Wednesday. Private payrolls climbed by 298,000 after a revised 261,000 gain in January, according to the report. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had projected a 187,000 increase, according to the median estimate.

Last month's January reports revealed a surge in hiring to start the new year with ADP private sector payrolls increasing 246,000 and nonfarm payrolls increasing 227,000, way above Street estimates of 168,000 and 180,000 respectively.

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So far this year, U.S. jobless claims have remained low, economic data has remained positive and the oil price has held above $50 (U.S.) helping one of the more depressed parts of the U.S. economy to recover. The strong data make it more likely there will be a U.S. interest rate increase this month. Rising wage pressures may also increase pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates sooner rather than later.

Now, here is a closer look at key market data, and corporate and economic news.

MARKET DATA:

Futures (as of about 8:50 a.m. ET)

Dow +0.07per cent; S&P 500 +0.02 per cent; Nasdaq: -0.02 per cent; TSX 60 -0.05 per cent

Equities
Japan's Nikkei -0.47 per cent
Shanghai composite index -0.04 per cent
Hong Kong's Hang Seng +0.43 per cent 
Germany's DAX -0.19 per cent
London's FTSE -0.25 per cent
France's CAC 40 -0.29 per cent

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Commodities
WTI crude oil (Nymex April) -1.05 per cent at $52.58 (U.S.) a barrel
Gold (Comex April) -0.21 per cent at $1,213.50  (U.S.) an ounce
Copper (Comex May) +0.27 per cent at $2.63 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies
Canadian dollar -0.11 at 74.40 cents (U.S.)
U.S. dollar index +0.00 at 101.54

Bonds
Canada 10-year bond yield -0.22 at 1.76 per cent

KEY ECONOMIC RELEASES

Japan real GDP, current account surplus, bank lending and leading index
Germany industrial production

**

(8:15 a.m. ET) Canada housing starts for February. Estimate is an annualized rate decline of 3.6 per cent.

Canadian housing starts inched higher in February compared with the previous month, adding to a strong start for new home building in 2017, data from the national housing agency showed on Wednesday. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate of housing starts rose to 210,207 units from an upwardly revised 208,934 in January, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) said. Economists had expected starts to decline to 200,000.

**
(8:15 a.m. ET) U.S. ADP National Employment Report for February. Consensus is an increase of 180,000 from January.

Companies unexpectedly accelerated the pace of hiring in the U.S. in February, data from the ADP Research Institute in Roseland, New Jersey, showed Wednesday. Private payrolls climbed by 298,000 after a revised 261,000 gain in January, according to the report.

**
(8:30 a.m. ET) Canada labour productivity for Q4. Estimate is an increase of 0.4 per cent from Q3.

The labor productivity of Canadian businesses rose 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter as the number of hours worked edged up after two consecutive declines, Statistics Canada said on Wednesday. Third-quarter productivity had jumped by 1.2 percent as the economy recovered from the effects of a major wildfire in the energy-producing province of Alberta. Real gross domestic product of businesses rose by 0.7 percent in the fourth quarter after increasing by 1.1 percent in the third quarter, pushed up by activity in the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector.

**
(8:30 a.m. ET) Canada building permits for January. Estimate is an increase of 3.0 per cent from December.

**
(8:30 a.m. ET) U.S. productivity and unit labour costs for Q4 (final). Consensus is annualized rate increases of 1.5 per cent for both.

The productivity of American workers grew at a slower pace in fourth quarter and last year recorded the smallest annual gain in five years. The Labor Department said Wednesday that productivity grew at a 1.3 per cent annual pace from October through December, down from 3.3 per cent in the third quarter. For 2016, productivity eked out a 0.2 per cent increase, the smallest since a 0.1 per cent gain in 2011. Labour costs, which account for changes in productivity, rose at a 1.7 per cent annual pace in the fourth quarter. That's up from a 0.7 per cent increase from July through September.
**

(10 a.m. ET) U.S. wholesale inventories for January. Consensus is a decline of 0.1 per cent from December.
(10:30 a.m. ET) EIA Petroleum Status Report

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KEY STOCKS TO WATCH

Also see: Wednesday's small-cap stocks to watch

**

Money manager Sprott Inc. (SII-T) launched a hostile $3.1-billion (U.S.) takeover offer Wednesday for Central Fund of Canada Ltd. (CFCL), the latest battle in Sprott's two-year campaign to unite rival gold and silver bullion funds.

**

Urban Outfitters (URBN-Q) dropped 6.5 percent to $24.11 following a sales miss that led to William Blair to downgrade the stock and others to cut price targets.

**

Geo Group (GEO-N) fell 7 percent to $42.35 after the REIT priced an offering of six million shares at $41.75 per share, a 6.7 percent discount to its Tuesday close.

**

Adidas AG raised its sales and earnings forecasts through 2020 and new Chief Executive Officer Kasper Rorsted announced plans to sell the CCM hockey brand as he focuses the German sportswear maker on its namesake label and Reebok.

**

Children's Place (PLCE-Q) reported adjusted quarterly profit of $1.88 per share, beating estimates of $1.59 a share. The company's revenue beat forecasts and it announced it was doubling its dividend to 40 cents per share. Its shares jumped nearly 7 per cent in premarket trading.

**

Networking technology company Ciena (CIEN-Q) reported that earnings fell 3 cents a share shy of estimates, with adjusted quarterly profit of 26 cents per share. Revenue also missed forecasts. It shares fell 2.4 per cent in premarket trading.

**

Bob Evans Farms (BOBE-Q) missed estimates by a cent per share, with adjusted quarterly profit of 75 cents per share. Revenue also missed forecasts, but the company raised its full-year earnings forecast.

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H&R Block (HRB-N) reported an adjusted quarterly loss of 49 cents per share, 4 cents a share lower than estimates. However, revenue beat estimates. Its shares rose 6 per cent in premarket trading.

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Earnings include: Brookfield Real Estate Services Inc.; Canadian Solar Inc.; Canexus Corp.; Descartes Systems Group Inc.; DIRTT Environmental Solutions Ltd.; Essential Energy Services Ltd.; IBI Group Inc.; Linamar Corp.; Liquor Stores NA Ltd.; Penn West Petroleum Ltd.; Pizza Pizza Royalty Corp.; Points International Ltd.; Savanna Energy Services Corp.; Semafo Inc.; Seven Generations Energy Ltd.; Spartan Energy Corp.; Total Energy Services Inc.; Xtreme Drilling Corp.

**

With files from wire services

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