Stock markets head for higher open following steep losses last week

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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TORONTO - The Toronto stock market could be headed for a higher open Monday morning following steep losses last week as commodity prices steadied.
Plans by U.S. president Barack Obama's plan to curb bank risk taking and Chinese moves to slow bank lending pushed the Toronto market down almost three per cent last week.
The Canadian dollar was off 0.03 of a cent to 94.48 cents US.
U.S. futures pointed to a positive start for the trading week after indexes racked up big loses last week.
The Dow Jones industrial futures moved up 60 points to 10,211, giving back about four per cent, the Nasdaq futures climbed 5.75 points to 1,803.5 while the S&P 500 futures were ahead 7.4 points to 1,098.4.
The March crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange slipped 25 cents to US$74.29 a barrel after sliding about four per cent last week as the Chinese plans raised demand concerns.
The February gold contract on the Nymex gained $7.70 to US$1,097.40 an ounce while the March contract for copper rose two cents to US$3.37.
Obama alarmed investors last week by asking Congress for curbs on the size of banks and an end some of the risky trading large financial companies have used in recent quarters to boost their profits.
"The uncertainty surrounding the detail of the reforms is making the markets extremely nervous," said Robert Pike, a trader at Spreadex in London.
Obama's push for tighter regulations comes at the same time China is moving to cool its own economy by reining in lending and stepping up regulatory oversight of that country's banks, raising new worries about the pace of an economic rebound.
There is also worry about whether the U.S. Senate will confirm Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term.
"He is expected to get the 60 votes needed to stay on for another four-year term, though it's by no means a lock amid waning support from politicians riding the wave of populist anger directed at banks and the Fed." said BMO Capital Markets senior economist Sal Guatieri.
Investors will also be looking to the Fed this week as the central bank holds its scheduled meeting on interest rates Tuesday and Wednesday.
Though the Fed is expected to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a range between zero and 0.25 per cent, investors will be particularly interested to see the accompanying statement and especially if there's continued support for keeping borrowing costs "exceptionally low and for an extended period."
In overseas trading, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average fell 0.7 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.6 per cent.
London's FTSE 100 index declined 0.85 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX was down 0.67 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 stepped back 0.14 per cent.
Investors will receive plenty of economic data and earnings reports throughout the week to help determine how the economy is faring. Thus far, earnings have mostly topped analysts' expectations. However, unlike in recent quarters that has not helped send stocks higher.
Analysts say traders are becoming more particular about specifics within earnings reports, such as future outlooks and revenue growth and not just settling for a better-than-expected profit as a reason to buy shares.
Dozens of earnings reports from nearly all sectors are scheduled for release throughout the week, including Apple Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Amazon Inc. and AT&T Inc.
The earnings season also gains momentum in Canada where market heavyweights such as grocer Metro Inc. (TSX:MRU.A), Canadian National Railways (TSX:CNR), Canadian Pacific Railway (TSX:CP) and Potash Corp. (TSX:POT) deliver earnings this week.
In corporate news, Kingsway Financial Services Inc. (TSX:KFS) says it has agreed to sell its shares of Jevco Insurance Co. to Westaim Corp. (TSX:WED) of Calgary.
The total estimated dollar-value of the transaction wasn't disclosed in Monday's announcement but Kingsway said it would receive 94.5 per cent of Jevco's book value as of Dec. 31, subject to adjustments.

Organizations: U.S. Senate, Federal Reserve, TSX Dow Jones S&P New York Mercantile Exchange Nymex Spreadex BMO Capital Markets Canadian National Railways Kingsway Financial Services Inc. Jevco FTSE 100 Apple Inc. Johnson & Johnson Amazon Inc. AT&T Inc. Metro Inc. Canadian Pacific Railway Potash Westaim

Geographic location: TORONTO, London, China Japan Hong Kong Frankfurt Canada Calgary

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