What you need to know before markets open

North American markets look set for a lower to flat open tracking losses in global markets.U.S. futures were little changed as the Dow Jones industrial futures declined 14 points to 18,189, the Nasdaq futures were down 3.8 points to 4,458 and the S&P 500 futures gave back 3.8 points to 2,106.1. The Canadian dollar gained 0.29 of a cent to 80.12 cents. U.S. economic growth braked more sharply than initially thought in the fourth quarter amid a slow pace of stock accumulation by businesses and a wider trade deficit, but the underlying fundamentals remained solid. Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.2 percent annual pace, revised down from the 2.6 percent pace estimated last month, the Commerce Department said on Friday. The economy grew at a 5 percent rate in the third quarter. Oil prices advanced after plunging almost $3 Thursday to the lowest level in a month as data continues to show large buildups of crude inventories in the United States. On Friday, the April crude contract in New York was up 80 cents to US$48.97 a barrel. Crude prices have moved generally lower this week as the Department of Energy said American inventories rose for a seventh, straight week, leaving supplies at their highest levels in 80 years. Also depressing oil and other commodity prices lately is a steadily strengthening U.S. currency. A stronger greenback makes commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies and depresses demand. Metal prices declined Friday with April gold down $2.10 to US$1,208 an ounce while May copper was down two cents to US$2.67 a pound. The TSX looks like it will struggle to end the week positive despite a run of generally positive earnings reports from most of the big Canadian banks this week. Energy stocks were shaping up to be the major decliner this week. However, the Toronto market has enjoyed a positive month, led by gains in base metal miners, tech companies and consumer discretionary stocks. Meanwhile, it’s a big day for transportation giant Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B). Its new larger CSeries jetliner was to make its maiden flight Friday morning with takeoff scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern time at Mirabel airport outside Montreal. The smaller CS100 began flight trials in September 2013 and the company says it will deliver its first CS100 in the second half of 2015. read more

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