By Malcolm Morrison
TORONTO _ The Toronto stock market headed for a lower open Thursday amid data showing a deepening contraction of the Chinese manufacturing sector and earnings from Canadian corporate heavyweights including grocer Loblaw (TSX:L) and coffee chain Tim Hortons (TSX:THI).
Traders will also focus on TransCanada (TSX:TRP) after the pipeline company's Keystone XL project suffered a major setback in a Nebraska court. A judge on Wednesday overturned a state law that could have forced landowners to allow the pipeline through their property. The state will appeal the decision, which could force TransCanada to either draw up a new route or seek permission from all landowners.
The Canadian dollar gained 0.09 of a cent to 90.33 cents US.
U.S. futures were lower with the Dow Jones industrial futures down 36 points to 15,980, the Nasdaq futures declined 10.5 points to 3,644 while the S&P 500 futures slipped 4.8 points to 1,820.7.
Commodity prices fell as HSBC's preliminary version of its monthly China purchasing managers' index fell to a seven-month low of 48.3 from January's 49.5 on a 100-point scale. Numbers below 50 show activity contracting.
China's economic activity has slowed steadily as the government tries to cool an investment boom and encourage more sustainable growth based on domestic consumption.
The March crude contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange dropped 36 cents to US$102.95 a barrel.
March copper was down two cents to US$3.27 a pound while April gold fell $10.90 to US$1,309.50 an ounce.
In earnings news, Loblaw reported $183 million or 65 cents per share of adjusted net earnings in the fourth quarter, down 1.1 per cent from a year earlier but 10 cents above the general estimate. Revenue was up 2.3 per cent to $7.64 billion, also better than expected. Same-store sales, an important measure in the retail industry, edged up 0.6 per cent compared with a year earlier.
Tim Hortons posted net earnings of 69 cents a share, up from 65 cents a year ago but below analyst estimates of 77 cents. Revenue was up 10.7 per cent to $898.5 million. The company also said it is raising its quarterly dividend by about 23 per cent and spending up to $440 million over the next year to buy back its shares.
In the U.S., Wal-Mart Stores earned $4.43 billion, or $1.36 per share, in the latest quarter, down 21 per cent from a year ago. Ex-items, Wal-Mart earned $1.60 per share. Revenue was up 1.4 per cent to $128.79 billion. Analysts were expecting $1.59 per share on revenue of $129.9 billion. It also disappointed on its profit outlook and its shares fell 1.5 per cent in pre-market trading in New York.
European markets were in the red as London'sFTSE 100 index moved down 0.3 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX was down 1.23 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 declined 0.45 per cent.
Earlier in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed 1.2 per cent lower, Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 2.2 per cent while China's Shanghai Composite edged down 0.2 per cent.