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Premarket: Stocks set to rally as jobs data surprisingly upbeat

The Dow Jones industrial average is set to hit record highs for its fourth consecutive day, as buying momentum and the growing appetite for stocks isn't letting up.

Adding further to the rally was a better-than-expected U.S. non-farm payrolls report, which showed the net creation of 236,000 jobs last month. Economists were looking for 165,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 per cent, its lowest level since 2008 and also a better reading than what was expected.

In Canada, February's job figures were much stronger than expected, and the loonie immediately erased earlier losses and is now trading up about one-third against the greenback.

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The broader S&P 500 index is still about 2 per cent away from its record intraday high after rising 1.7 per cent so far this week. But today's positive jobs data suggest that index will be quickly closing in on that record; more assuredly, the benchmark index should mark its biggest weekly rise since the start of this year.

Overnight, Japan's Nikkei rallied 2.6 per cent, climbing for the seventh day in a row and reaching a fresh multi-year high as the yen fell against the U.S. dollar. The country released a revision to fourth-quarter gross domestic product to show an annual 0.2-per-cent increase, much better than last month's initial reading of a 0.4-per-cent contraction. It also said its current account deficit rose in January.

Traders also absorbed more data from China overnight. Its exports rose 21.8 per cent in February, down slightly from January's 25 per cent but beating low expectations given that the period encompasses the Lunar New Year holidays, when manufacturers traditionally close. Imports plunged 13.8 per cent, but that was met with little concern because of the impact of the holidays.

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

MARKETS:

Equities:

U.S. futures: S&P 500 +0.4 per cent; Dow +0.5 per cent; Nasdaq +0.4 per cent

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Hong Kong's Hang Seng index +1.41 per cent

Shanghai composite index -0.23 per cent

Japan's Nikkei +2.64 per cent

London's FTSE 100 +0.62 per cent

Germany's DAX +0.77 per cent

France's CAC 40 +1.35 per cent

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Italy's FTSE MIB +1.70 per cent

Commodities:

WTI (Nymex Apr) -0.33 per cent at $91.29 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Apr) -0.57 per cent at $1,566.00 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex May) +0.16 per cent at $3.53 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar up 0.0032, or 0.33 per cent, at $0.9747 (U.S.)

ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said housing starts, at an annualized basis, were 180,719 in February, up 13.7 per cent, and a bit better than the 174,900 economists' expected.

U.S. non-farm payrolls were up 236,000 last month, better than the 165,000 that was expected. The unemployment rate fell to 7.7 per cent, better than forecasts for 7.9 per cent.

Canada gained 50,700 net jobs in February, much higher than the 8,000 gain that economists had forecast. The unemployment rate, as expected, held at 7 per cent.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Pandora Media Inc. shares are up 21 per cent in the premarket after it reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter results late Thursday and announced its CEO plans to step down.

Google's Motorola Mobility unit is cutting another 1,200 jobs, or 10 per cent of its workforce, as the smartphone maker tries to return to profitability. Google shares are up 0.2 per cent in the premarket.

Earnings today include: BNP Paribas Bank Polska SA; Cargojet Inc.; Foot Locker Inc.; Genesco Inc.; Marshalls PLC; Patheon Inc.; and SNC Lavalin Group Inc.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:

The largest U.S.-based companies expanded their untaxed offshore stockpiles by $183-billion (U.S.) in the past year, increasing such holdings by 14.4 per cent.

A look at the pros who called the 2009 market bottom.

How put options can limit your losses if the stock market suddenly corrects.

Are you still mostly in cash but thinking of buying equities as the bull rally continues? Here are five principles to know.

The Google-Apple valuation gap is the widest since 2005.

Cyclical stocks are still looking cheap relative to defensive ones.

Bond king Jeffrey Gundlach has been buying Treasuries, reversing his previous bearish stance on U.S. government debt.

An argument on why investors should buy Italian stocks while they're cheap.

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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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