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Before the bell: S&P 500 aims for record on profit beats

The Before the Bell report is constantly updated to reflect the latest news developments and market moves in the premarket. Check back later for updates.

North American stock futures are edging up this morning and overseas markets are mixed. While gains in stock futures are modest, they suggest the S&P 500 index could test record highs again as markets open this morning.

On Friday, the index rose 11.23 points, or 0.65 per cent, at 1,744.38 - its highest close ever. The TSX closed at 13,136, just over a two-year high, after breaking the 13,000 barrier on Thursday.

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The focus today is on U.S. corporate earnings, and the more interesting moves are likely to be in individual stocks rather than the market as a whole.

Other than a flurry of earnings out today, there's not a lot of fresh news and traders will be reluctant to take on new positions ahead of the September U.S. jobs report that will come out on Tuesday after being delayed by the partial government shutdown. Those numbers could be skewed somewhat by the shutdown, so market players may treat them with a grain of salt.

It's been a decent earnings season so far, with 70 per cent of the 80 S&P 500 companies reporting results prior to today beating earnings expectations, according to Deutsche Bank. But only 53 per cent have surpassed sales forecasts. Those figures are close to what was seen in the second quarter.

We detail how the major earnings reports have come in so far today, and what else is going on, in our rundown below:

MARKETS:

Equities:

Futures: S&P 500 +0.12 per cent; Dow +0.03 per cent; Nasdaq +0.27 per cent; S&P Toronto +0.13 per cent

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Hong Kong's Hang Seng +0.42 per cent

Shanghai composite index +1.61 per cent

Japan's Nikkei +0.74 per cent

London's FTSE 100 +0.91 per cent

Germany's DAX -0.08 per cent

France's CAC 40 -0.26 per cent

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Commodities:

WTI crude oil (Nymex Dec) -0.84 per cent at $100.26 (U.S.) a barrel

Gold (Comex Dec) +0.04 per cent at $1,315.10 (U.S.) an ounce

Silver (Comex Dec) +0.76 per cent at $22.08 (U.S.) an ounce

Copper (Comex Dec) +0.09 per cent at $3.30 (U.S.) a pound

Currencies:

Canadian dollar at 97.13 (U.S.), down 0.0007 from Friday's North American close.

U.S. dollar index up 0.04 at 79.69

Bonds:

U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.59 per cent, down 0.005

ECONOMIC INDICATORS TO WATCH:

Canada wholesale trade for August rose 0.5 per cent from July, higher than the 0.3 per cent Street forecast. Inventories fell 0.5 per cent.

(10 a.m. ET) U.S. releases existing home sales for September, forecast to fall to an annual rate of 5.3 million from 5.48 million the previous month.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Maple Leaf Foods said it is exploring strategic alternatives for its bakery business, Canada Bread.

Yellow Media has named Julien Billot as its new President and CEO.

Shares in Canadian National Railway will be in focus after the railway saw its third notable derailment in the past month in Alberta on Saturday.

JPMorgan shares are down 0.5 per cent in the U.S. premarket after the bank reached a tentative $13-billion deal with the U.S. Justice Department to settle several investigations of its mortgage-backed securities business.

AOL shares are up 3 per cent in the premarket after CNBC's Jim Cramer said late Friday that the Internet firm was largely an unnoticed turnaround story.

McDonald's reported third-quarter EPS of $1.52, versus the Street estimate of $1.51. Global same-store sales rose 0.9 per cent, a little lower than the 1 per cent estimate. Shares are down 1.4 per cent in the premarket.

Halliburton reported adjusted third-quarter EPS of 83 cents versus the 82 cents Street estimate. Shares are down 1.4 per cent in the premarket.

Hasbro reported adjusted profit of $1.31 a share, above the analysts' average estimate of $1.29. Sales rose 2 per cent to $1.37-billion, beating analysts' expectations of $1.34-billion. Shares are up nearly 1 per cent in the premarket.

Gannett reported third-quarter adjusted EPS of 43 cents, beating expectations. Shares are up 2 per cent in the premarket.

Other earnings today include: Brookfield Canada Office, Netflix, Texas Instruments.

ANALYST ACTIONS:

Canaccord Genuity downgraded Magna International to "hold" from "buy," noting its valuation is hitting new highs. It maintained an $89 (U.S.) price target.

BMO Nesbitt Burns slashed its price target on Athabasca Oil to $11 (Canadian) from $14 and reiterated an "outperform" rating.

BMO Nesbitt Burns downgraded Norbord to "market perform" from "outperform" and cut its price target to $30 (Canadian).

Desjardins hiked its target on Genivar to $30 (Canadian) from $27 and maintained a "buy" rating.

Desjardins hiked its target on Stantec to $55 (Canadian) from $48 and reiterated a "hold" rating.

Societe Generale upgraded Apple to "buy" from "hold" and raised its price target to $575 (U.S.) from $500.

Deutsche Bank downgraded Goodyear Tire & Rubber to "neutral" from "buy" and cut its price target to $26 (U.S.) from $29.

Canaccord downgraded Celestica to "hold" from "buy" but maintained an $11.75 US target.

BMO Nesbitt Burns upgraded Dean Foods to "outperform" from "market perform" and raised its price target to $23 (US) from $22.

BMO Nesbitt Burns downgraded Revlon to "market perform" from "outperform" but kept a $31 (U.S.) price target.

RBC Dominion Securities downgraded First Horizon National to "sector perform" from "outperform" and cut its price target to $11 (U.S.) from $13.

Imperial Capital cut its target on J.C. Penney to $1 (U.S.) from $5 and maintained an "underperform" rating.

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING READS ON THE WEB:

The friendlier the analysts are who get to ask company executives questions on conference calls, the more shareholders should worry.

If you like a star athlete, now you can buy a share.

How much cash you should hold to shield yourself from an inevitable market crash.

It's very hard to find good value deals these days in U.S. small cap stocks.

Euro zone stocks are rising like a Phoenix.

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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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