Toronto stock market set to open slightly higher; oil price moves up

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TORONTO - The Toronto stock market looked to start off slightly higher with investors waiting for an update on the U.S. economy later Wednesday from the Federal Reserve after its two-day policy meeting.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.04 of a cent to 92.01 cents US as the price of oil pushed toward US$107 a barrel and violence persisted in energy producer Iraq, where Islamic militants attacked the country's largest refinery.

U.S. futures were positive with the Dow Jones industrial futures up by two points, the Nasdaq futures up by 5.7 points to 3,781.32 and the S&P 500 futures posted a gain of 0.25 to 1,941.99.

Markets are awaiting the conclusion of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting, when it will release its latest forecasts for the world's biggest economy that will also provide guidance on future energy demand. A stay-the-course message is expected from the Federal Reserve and it will likely approve a fifth cut in its monthly bond purchases because the job market has steadily strengthened. But no clear signal is expected on when the Fed will start raising short-term interest rates from record lows.

In Canada, Enbridge Inc.'s controversial Northern Gateway proposal passed a key milestone on Tuesday, but the Calgary-based pipeline giant says it has a long-way to go before it decides to break ground. Ottawa gave the green light to the multibillion-dollar Alberta-to-West Coast project, subject to 209 conditions recommended by a regulatory panel late last year. But Enbridge still needs to cross a number of federal and provincial regulatory hurdles, fight a bevy of legal battles launched by opponents and win over communities along the proposed route.

Opponents of the pipeline, including B.C. aboriginal groups, are vowing that it will never be built, despite the go-ahead from the federal government.

A Canadian company that supplies crews of skilled workers says the federal government's approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline will create as many as 3,000 new construction jobs. CEO Hunter Reid of TDT Crews Inc. says the building of the pipeline would create a huge demand for skilled trades from provinces, especially Ontario's large, skilled construction workforce. Reid says labour mobility will be critical and is urging that Canadians be hired first for the project.

Meanwhile, Statistics Canada will release data today, including the wholesale trade figures for April, travel between Canada and other countries for April and Canada's population estimates for the first-quarter of 2014.

In corporate news, FedEx Corp. says its quarterly profit rose as growth in online shopping gave its ground-shipping business a lift. The earnings of $2.46 per share beat Wall Street's forecast by a dime. Revenue also topped expectations. The package-delivery company said it earned $730 million in its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended May 31, compared with $303 million a year ago, when write-downs weighed on the results. Revenue rose 3.5 per cent to $11.84 billion. Analysts expected $11.66 billion, according to FactSet.

On the commodity markets, the July crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 35 cents to US$106.71 a barrel.

August bullion was down 80 cents to US$1,271.2 an ounce, while July copper was up a penny to US$3.07 a pound.

Organizations: Federal Reserve, Enbridge Inc., Dow Jones TDT Crews Statistics Canada FedEx New York Mercantile Exchange

Geographic location: Toronto, U.S., Canada Ottawa Alberta West Coast Ontario

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