What you need to know before markets open

TORONTO — The Toronto stock market looked set to advance Tuesday with markets firmly focused on the new chair of the Federal Reserve and her appearance before the U.S. Congress’ Financial Services Committee.It is Janet Yellen’s debut testimony before the House committee after taking over the reins of the Fed earlier this month and traders are looking for her views on the economy, inflation and the gradual pullback of the Fed’s key bond-buying program.The Canadian dollar was up 0.04 of a cent to 90.5 cents US ahead of Yellen’s testimony, which is slated for 10 a.m. EST.New York futures also advanced as the Dow Jones industrial futures ran up 56 points to 15,795, the Nasdaq futures were ahead 12.8 points to 3,590.3 while the S&P 500 futures gained six points to 1,800.5.Yellen’s remarks have been highly anticipated, particularly coming after developments last week that saw rising concerns about employment after January job creation fell well short of expectations and fresh worries about emerging markets.Markets will also seek reassurance that Yellen won’t deviate from the message that her predecessor Ben Bernanke sent Congress last year: that the economy’s outlook is bright enough to withstand a slight pullback in their stimulus. At the same time, rates should stay low to fuel a still-subpar economy.The Fed has moved twice over the last two months to cut its bond buying program by a total of US$20 billion to $65 billion and analysts generally expect the Fed to continue cutting by $10 billion every meeting.Traders are also braced for what could be some further negative news from China after data last week showed the manufacturing sector in the world’s second-biggest economy still expanding but at a slower pace.Meagre trade growth is expected when import and export data is released Wednesday. Inflation data comes out the next day and Barclays Research said it expects inflation to moderate to 2.3% year over year in January from 2.5% in December, thanks in large part to lower food inflation.On the earnings front, Cineplex Inc. (TSX:CGX) had $20.2 million of net income or 32 cents per share, well below estimates of 48 cents. Revenue of $323.2 million also missed estimates.In other corporate developments, Barclays, Britain’s second-biggest bank in terms of assets, is to slash up to 12,000 jobs, about 9% of its workforce. Barclays also set aside more money for bonuses even as the bank’s loss widened to 642 million pounds or US$1.1 billion in the fourth quarter, from 589 million pounds a year earlier.On the commodity markets, March crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange edged up eight cents to US$100.14 a barrel.March copper was down a cent to US$3.22 a pound while April bullion moved ahead $11.40 to US$1,286.10 an ounce.European markets advanced as London’s FTSE 100 index rose 0.8%, Frankfurt’s DAX gained 1.4% while the Paris CAC 40 climbed 0.62%.Earlier in Asia, China’s Shanghai Composite added 0.8% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.8%. read more