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Premarket: Dow to close in on all-time high

The Dow Jones industrial average will take a run at the history books this morning, with U.S. stock futures suggesting a modestly higher start that will bring the index very close to its all-time high.

The Dow needs to gain about 36 points to hit its record closing high of 14,164.53 set on Oct. 9, 2007, and market sentiment this morning is just upbeat enough that it may finally do it. Many European stock markets are posting gains of more than 1 per cent, fed by optimism created by Wall Street's late advances on Monday and data from the euro zone and the U.K. showing a little improvement in the services sector. Asian markets were mostly higher overnight.

The TSX should inch higher as well, receiving support from mild gains in commodities this morning. Earnings from the Bank of Nova Scotia - the last from the Big 5 to come out - will be in focus.

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China led the gains overnight, with the Shanghai composite index gaining 2.3 per cent, rebounding from Monday's sell-off that was sparked by new restrictions imposed on its housing sector. China's parliament began its annual session today, kicked off by outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao projecting an economic growth target of 7.5 per cent for 2013 - which met expectations.

In the U.S., there continues to be little political momentum to block the $85-billion (U.S.) in spending cuts that are taking hold this month - the so-called sequester. But market players aren't too worried, believing that progress on that topic will eventually be made when talks on the debt ceiling and other budgetary affairs take place later this year.

The bigger fear may very well be whether stocks are getting overvalued or not. The bull market in U.S. equities is entering its fifth year this month, and the S&P 500 index has risen 125 per cent since 2009.

Now, here's a closer look at what else is going on this morning.

MARKETS:

Equities:

U.S. futures: S&P 500 +0.2 per cent; Dow +0.2 per cent; Nasdaq +0.2 per cent

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Hong Kong's Hang Seng index +0.10 per cent

Shanghai composite index +2.31 per cent

Japan's Nikkei +0.26 per cent

London's FTSE 100 +0.67 per cent

Germany's DAX +1.56 per cent

France's CAC 40 +1.17 per cent

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Italy's FTSE MIB +1.57 per cent

Commodities:

WTI (Nymex Apr) +0.13 per cent at $90.24 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Apr) +0.69 per cent at $1,583.40 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex May) +0.63 per cent at $3.52 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar up 0.0011, or 0.11 per cent, at $0.9744 (U.S.)

ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:

(10 a.m. ET) The U.S. Institute for Supply Management releases its non-manufacturing sector data for February. Economists expect a reading of 55.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Bank of Nova Scotia reported adjusted profit of $1.27 in its latest quarter, beating Street forecasts of $1.25, as revenues rose 12 per cent. It also hiked its dividend by 3 cents.

Other earnings today include: Catalyst Paper Corp.; First Quantum Minerals Ltd.; Glencore International PLC; Wajax Corp.;and Xstrata PLC

American Apparel Inc. late Monday forecast sales for this year that beat analysts' expectations. Shares are expected to rise.

J.C. Penney Co. shares are down 4 per cent in the premarket after its second-biggest shareholder sold part of its stake.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:

How an Internet-trained Apple analyst lost tens of millions of other peoples' money

Warren Buffett has some advice to Apple CEO Tim Cook: Ignore Einhorn, and just run the company well.

Retail investors fully embraced this bull market in February, looking past any threat from the sequester crisis in Washington, and buying stocks more aggressively than they have in three years, according to a sentiment index from TD Ameritrade.

Palo Alto Networks shares are expensive - and worth it, argues Barron's.

The role of real return bonds in your portfolio.

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The premarket report is constantly updated to reflect the latest news developments and market moves. For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities

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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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