What you need to know before markets open

TORONTO – The Toronto stock market looked to start the session little changed Wednesday with all eyes on the U.S. Federal Reserve and its mid-afternoon announcement on interest rates.It’s also a heavy day for earnings reports from a variety of heavyweights in the resource sector, including Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.B) and Suncor Energy (TSX:SU).The Canadian dollar was up 0.19 of a cent to 89.71 cents US.U.S. futures were little changed with the Dow Jones industrial futures off two points at 16,934, the Nasdaq futures declined 14 points to 4,080 while the S&P 500 futures slipped 3.2 points to 1,976.9.Expectations are high that the Fed will announce the completion of its third round of quantitative easing will take place at the end of the month. Some traders have viewed the end of this stimulus with some trepidation since the program of massive bond purchases kept long-term rates low and helped encourage the strong rally on stock markets over the past few years.Markets also looked for reassurance that the Federal Reserve will keep short-term rates low after QE ends and in particular will focus on the Fed keeping the words “considerable period” in its announcement.Meanwhile, Teck Resources reported it had $159 million of adjusted profit in the third quarter, or 28 cents per share, down 37% from the third quarter of 2013 but three cents per share higher than analyst estimates. Revenue was down nearly 11% to $2.25 billion with results impacted by lower prices for its steelmaking coal.OPEC boss on plunging oil prices: Don’t panicSuncor Energy reports quarterly results this evening.Elsewhere in the resource group, Sherritt International Inc. (TSX:S) says it’s cutting the size of its head office workforce by 25% and preparing to sell the building as part of a previously announce cost-cutting plan. The Toronto-based company also says that the restructuring will reduce the overall salaried workforce by about 10%, without making cuts at a key nickel operation in Madagascar.Sherritt didn’t announce how many employees would be affected by the downsizing but says it’s aiming to reduce costs by about $10 million a year. The miner also said its continuing operations had a net loss of $51.3 million or 17 cents per share, down from a small profit a year earlier.In the U.S., Facebook shares fell 8% in pre-market trading after the social network company said after the close that earnings nearly doubled to US$802 million after paying preferred dividends, or 30 cents per share. Revenue rose 59% to $3.2 billion. Adjusted earnings and revenue both beat Wall Street’s estimates. But on a conference call with analysts, finance chief David Wehner said he expects Facebook to incur higher expenses than normal in the quarters to come, in the wake of big investments in both engineering talent and acquisitions.On the commodity markets, December crude ran up 79 cents to US$82.21 a barrel, December copper was up for a fifth day, ahead one cent to US$3.10 a pound while December gold declined $1.80 to US$1,227.60 an ounce.North American stocks continued to recover from the worst of this month’s selloff Tuesday, helped along by the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index, which hit a seven year high. The TSX jumped 155 points while the dow surged 188 points. read more

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