(Updated with the latest economic reports, corporate news and market data)
Stock markets are trying to claw their way back this morning after Wednesday's pounding that saw the Dow Jones industrial average suffer its harshest losses of the year.
Some better-than-expected earnings reports out of Europe, including from Swiss Re Ltd. and Hermes International (RMS) SCA, are helping. So too are thoughts that Wednesday's post-election sell-off might have left bargains to be had in some individual securities. And Greece passed a new round of austerity measures late Wednesday that was required for the country to receive a fresh batch of aid, a critical step to pull itself out of its despair.
That said, markets aren't exactly roaring back. U.S. stock index futures are only modestly in positive territory. Oil is up about 1 per cent after Wednesday's 4.8 per cent plunge in the New York December oil futures contract. It looks like the TSX will have to settle for only modest gains at the open.
Asian markets took a drubbing overnight, reacting to Wall Street's big losses on Wednesday. It was pegged mainly to concerns that the U.S. elections -- which essentially made for a status quo government, with Barack Obama at the helm and Congressional power split between Republicans and Democrats -- did little to alleviate concerns over the "fiscal cliff." That's the more than $600-billion in tax hikes and spending cuts that are looming for the end of this year unless Congress reaches agreement on a deficit-cutting plan. Expect markets to be vulnerable to political comments and negotiations in coming days from either U.S. party.
There are plenty of earnings reports for investors to take in today. We detail those below, as well as the latest economic reports.
Also worth keeping an eye on today is the European Central Bank. As expected, it announced no change in its key lending rate this morning. ECB President Mario Draghi is now making comments in a press conference, and has stated that the "underlying pace of monetary expansion remains subdued." The Bank of England has already announced no change in its key interest rate this morning.
Now, here's the rundown of what else you need to know before the trading day begins:
Futures: Dow +0.4 per cent, S&P 500 +0.3 per cent, Nasdaq +0.4 per cent
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index -2.41 per cent
Shanghai composite index -1.60 per cent
Japan's Nikkei -1.51 per cent
London's FTSE 100 +0.35 per cent
Germany's DAX +0.57 per cent
France's CAC 40 +0.75 per cent
WTI (Nymex Dec) +1.27 per cent at $85.51 (U.S.) a barrel
Gold (Comex Dec) +0.05 per cent at $1,714.80 (U.S.) an ounce
Copper (Comex Dec) +0.04 per cent at $3.44 (U.S.) a pound
Canadian dollar up 0.0001, or 0.01 per cent, at 1.0039 (U.S.)
STOCKS AND ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said October housing starts were trending at 218,392 units, a little better than the 213,000 economists were expecting.
Statistics Canada said the new housing price index in September rose 2.4 per cent. Economists had expected an annual rise of 2.3 per cent.
Statscan said the nation's trade deficit narrowed to $826-million in September. That was nearly half the $1.5-billion economists had projected.
The Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit shrunk to $41.5-billion (U.S.) in September, shrinking from $44.2-billion a month earlier and less than the $45-billion economists had expected.
The U.S. said jobless claims for last week fell 8,000 to 355,000. That was below the 363,000 the previous week and the 370,000 that economists had expected.
Frank Stronach, who founded Magna International Inc. and guided its growth to a global powerhouse, is resigning from the company's board of directors.
Manulife Financial Corp. reported a $227-million third-quarter loss Thursday, after taking a $1-billion charge.
Air Canada said third profit was $429-million or $1.54 per share, compared to a loss of $124-million or 45 cents in the year-earlier period.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. had $360-million of net income in the third quarter or 33 cents per share, down from $753-million or 68 cents per share a year earlier.
Sun Life Financial Inc. turned around a year-ago loss to report a profit in its latest quarter and beat analysts' expectations as equity markets rebounded.
Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. had $40.8 million of net income in the third quarter, up from $37 million a year earlier.
Wendy's said its net loss widened in the third quarter as it paid off debt, but noted that a key sales figure rose. Not including one-time items, Wendy's says it earned 3 cents per share. Analysts expected 5 cents.
McDonald's Corp. reported a 1.8 per cent drop in October sales at established restaurants around the world, its first monthly sales fall in nine years, hurt by stiff competition in a weak economy.
Research In Motion shares are up 1.5 per cent in the premarket after plunging 9 per cent on Wednesday amid worries its BlackBerry 10 software won't be successful.
Oppenheimer analysts are calling shares in Apple oversold and says it's time to buy.
Other earnings include: CAE Inc.; Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd.; Cascades Inc.; Cineplex Inc.; Crescent Point Energy Corp.; Denison Mines Corp.; Dorel Industries Inc.; EADS NV; Finning International Inc.; Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc.; Great-West Lifeco Inc.; Groupon Inc.; High Liner Foods Inc.; IGM Financial Inc.; Inter Pipeline Fund;Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; Magn a International Inc.; Nordstrom Inc.; Petrobakken Energy Ltd.; Primaris REIT; Tim Hortons Inc.; and Walt Disney Co.
THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of bond giant Pimco, offered a four-point plan to fix the U.S. economy.
Wall Street's credit-derivatives traders, who before the financial crisis commanded $2-million (U.S.) of annual pay, are being replaced by machines as banks cut costs and heed new regulations.
Treasurys have a new rival for safe-haven status: U.S. companies. In a rare phenomenon, bonds of Exxon Mobil and Johnson & Johnson are trading with yields below those of comparable Treasurys.
Why the belief that retail bond investors are causing a junk bond market bubble is a myth.
The outlook for dividend growth among U.S. stocks is deteriorating.
Why Facebook should be thinking about taking over Tumblr.
The world's most misleading ETF names.
For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities,