By Malcolm Morrison
TORONTO _ The Toronto stock market headed for a lower open Thursday amid earnings reports from the insurance, manufacturing and resource sectors.
There was also major acquisition activity as Comcast Corp. confirmed that it plans to buy Time Warner Cable for about US$45.2 billion in stock in a deal that would combine the top two cable TV companies in the United States.
The Canadian dollar inched up 0.01 of a cent to 90.94 cents US.
New York futures were in the red ahead of the release of January retail sales data and jobless insurance claims figures from last week.
The Dow Jones industrial futures declined 59 points to 15,884, the Nasdaq futures gained 17.5 points to 3,607 while the S&P 500 futures slid eight points to 1,809.
Traders looked for a flat showing from the retail sales data. TD Economics said that "bad weather should lead January consumer spending to decline for the first time since March 2013."
Markets have been generally positive this week after Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen reassured markets on interest rates and cutting back on stimulus measures. There was also relief as the U.S. Congress passed legislation to raise the debt limit without the drama that has accompanied such a vote over the last few years.
The TSX in particular found lift Wednesday from a strong read on Chinese trade performance during January.
On the earnings front, Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC) says it had $685 million or 35 cents a share of core earnings in the fourth quarter, three cents short of expectations. Net income shot up 20 per cent from last year to 68 cents a share, 25 cents ahead of estimates.
Sun Life Financial Inc. (TSX:SLF) posted quarterly net income of $571 million or 93 cents a share, compared with $284 million or 47 cents per share a year ago. Operating income nearly doubled to $642 million or $1.05 per share, well above estimates of 68 cents per share.
Oilsands producer Cenovus Energy Inc. (TSX:CVE) reported $212 million of operating earnings, equal to 28 cents per share, compared with a year-earlier operating loss of $188 million or 25 cents per share. Cenovus also says its quarterly dividend will rise 10 per cent to 26.62 cents per share.
Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.B) had US$129 million of adjusted net income, or seven cents per share, in the fourth quarter, down from $181 million for a year earlier and four cents below estimates.
Prices drifted lower on commodity markets as March crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange was down 60 cents to US$99.77 a barrel.
April bullion was $3.20 lower to US$1,291.80 an ounce while March copper dipped one cent to US$3.24 a pound.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 dropped 1.8 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.5 per cent while China's Shanghai Composite Index closed 0.6 per cent lower.
European markets were also negative as London'sFTSE 100 index declined 0.57 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX was down 0.2 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 lost 0.44 per cent.