(Updated with the latest economic and corporate news and market data)
North American stock markets appear to be headed for a higher opening after an attempted rebound Tuesday failed to stick. U.S. stock index futures are roughly half a percentage point higher as the opening bell approaches.
Cisco helped buoy spirits late Tuesday by reporting better-than-expected quarterly results in an earnings season that has had its fair share of disappointments.
But the biggest focus for traders remains budget talks in the U.S. and efforts to avoid the more than $600-billion in spending cuts and tax increases that could kick in Jan. 1. President Barack Obama will meet with congressional leaders on Friday to begin those negotiations, and reaching a deal isn't going to be easy.
The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post reported today that Mr. Obama plans to open talks by calling for $1.6-trillion in new tax revenue over the next decade, which is likely to be met with strong Republican opposition. The figure is double the amount proposed during failed closed-door talks with GOP leaders during debt negotiations in mid-2011.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said late Tuesday that Mr. Obama was "not prepared to extend upper-income tax cuts," an affront to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who wants to increase revenue by limiting tax breaks, while leaving individual rates unchanged.
Asian markets firmed overnight but European stocks are weaker this morning. The euro zone debt crisis is continuing to keep traders there on edge, especially as millions of workers today joined strikes across southern Europe to protest against spending cuts and tax hikes.
Now, here's the rundown of what else you need to know this morning.
Futures: Dow +0.4 per cent, S&P 500 +0.4 per cent, Nasdaq +0.6 per cent
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index +1.20 per cent
Shanghai composite index +0.35 per cent
Japan's Nikkei +0.05 per cent
London's FTSE 100 -0.59 per cent
Germany's DAX -0.24 per cent
France's CAC 40 -0.25 per cent
WTI (Nymex Dec) -0.06 per cent at $85.33 (U.S.) a barrel
Gold (Comex Dec) +0.24 per cent at $1,729.00 (U.S.) an ounce
Copper (Comex Dec) -0.07 per cent at $3.48 (U.S.) a pound
Canadian dollar up 0.0006, or 0.06 per cent, at 0.9983 (U.S.)
STOCKS AND ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:
The U.S. Commerce Department said retail and food sales in October, which was influenced by Hurricane Sandy, fell 0.3 per cent. Economists expected a monthly drop closer to 0.1 per cent.
The U.S. said its October producer prices fell 0.2 per cent, whereas economists were expecting a month rise of 0.2 per cent following a 1.1 per cent surge in September.
(200 p.m. ET) The U.S. Federal Reserve Board publishes the meetings of its latest policy-setting meeting.
About 800 million Facebook Inc. shares are set to emerge from a post-initial public offering lockup today, potentially doubling the size of the company's share float. Shares are down nearly 1 per cent in the premarket.
Cisco Systems Inc. shares are up nearly 8 per cent in the premarket after reporting first-quarter results that beat estimates.
Loblaw Cos. said its third-quarter profit dropped 6 per cent, coming in just shy of analyst expectations. It also announced a 4.8 per cent hike in its dividend.
Teck Resources Ltd. announced it has hiked its dividend by 12.5 per cent.
Staples Inc. reported a net loss of $596.3-million in its latest quarter but most of that was due to one-time charges and adjusted earnings were close to analyst expectations. Shares are up nearly 5 per cent in the premarket.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co. shares are surging 25 per cent in the premarket after its latest earnings blew past analyst expectations.
Denison Mines Corp. announced a deal to acquire uranium explorer JNR Resources Inc.
Other earnings scheduled today include: Boyd Group Income Fund; Brick Ltd.; Calian Technologies Ltd.; Chorus Aviation Inc.; Connacher Oil and Gas Ltd.; Linamar Corp.; Metro Inc.; Power Corp. of Canada; Power Financial Corp.; Royal Host Inc.; Sprott Inc.; Tyco International Inc.; Wescast Industries Inc.
THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:
U.S. dividend stocks are being particularly hard hit on fears of the "fiscal cliff."
Nearly 90 per cent of stock markets around the world are outperforming the U.S. so far this quarter.
The Standard & Poor's 500 Index remains precariously positioned near its 200-day moving average. A deeper dive into this bull/bear battleground.
Every sector in the S&P 500 is oversold from a technical perspective.
China's economy is showing nascent signs of a pickup in growth, and that's starting to trickle through to markets in the rest of the so-called BRICS—Brazil, Russia and India.
How to invest in legalized marijuana.
For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities