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Bay Street Headed For Cautious Opening

The Canadian stock market is likely to open on a cautious note on Friday, with investors looking for direction. Global cues are weak with markets in Asia and Europe drifting lower on growth concerns and on uncertainty about the U.S. and China striking a trade deal before March 1st.

Investors will also be reacting to data on Canadian housing starts and jobs, both for the month of January 2019.

According to a report released by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation a little while ago, the annual pace of housing starts in January slowed compared with December. The agency said the seasonally adjusted annual rate came in at 207,968 units for the first month of the year compared with 213,630 in December.

Economists had expected an annualized pace of 205,000 for January, according to Thomson Reuters Eikon.

The annual pace of urban starts slowed 2.1% in January and annual pace of multiple-unit projects such as condominiums, apartments and townhouses increased 0.7% to 146,353 units.

On Thursday, the benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index ended down 8.95 points, or 0.06%, at 15,703.36, after scaling a low of 15,588.66 and a high of 15,726.53 intraday.

In company news, CI Financial Corp. (CIX.TO) reported earnings per share of $0.57 for the fourth quarter of 2018, up 12% from $0.51 for the fourth quarter of 2017, and down 8% from $0.62 for the third quarter of 2018.

SEMAFO Inc. (SMF.TO) said the company expects consolidated production of between 390,000 and 430,000 ounces of gold in 2019, representing a 68% increase over 2018 production.

Cott Corporation (BCB.TO) today announced the sale of its soft drink concentrate production business and its RCI International division to Refresco for USD $50 million. RCI, in turn sold the RCI worldwide branded activities to RC Global Beverages Inc.

ARC Resources Ltd. (ARX.TO) reported fourth quarter net income of $159.7 million, or $0.45 per share, as compared to $213.8 million, or $0.60 per share in the year-ago quarter.

Asian markets ended weak on Friday amid growth and trade worries after the European Commission lowered its forecasts for the eurozone and a report said U.S. President Donald Trump does not plan to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before the deadline for reaching a trade deal.

The weakness in the region was also due to the Reserve Bank of Australia downgrading its growth and inflation forecasts in the wake of global growth worries as well as recent weak domestic data, particularly for consumption.

A stronger yen resulted in the Japanese benchmark Nikkei225 suffering a 2% loss.

European stocks were drifting lower as investors pondered over the prospects for U.S.-China trade talks.

According to reports, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other U.S. officials will travel to Beijing next week to continue the negotiations. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to a 90-day tariff truce in December.

In economic releases, Germany's exports rebounded at a faster-than-expected pace in December, exceeding expectations, while imports followed suit, figures from the Federal Statistical Office showed.

According to preliminary data from the statistical office INSEE, France's manufacturing output rebounded in December, rising 1.1%, after falling by a revised 1.5% in the preceding month.

Growth was driven by a 5.7% rise in the manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products, followed by a 2.6% climb in the production of transport equipment. Other manufacturing registered a 1.3% increase and the manufacture of food products and beverages grew 0.9%.

In contrast, the manufacture of machinery and equipment goods decreased 2.3% in December.

Industrial production increased 0.8% from November, when it decreased 1.5%. Economists were looking for a 0.6% rise.

On a year-on-year basis, manufacturing output decreased 1.5% in the final three months of 2018 and industrial production dropped 1.4%.

France's private payroll employment grew modestly in the fourth quarter, similar to the previous three months, as job creation slowed in the construction sector and decreased in industry, flash figures from the statistical office INSEE showed on Friday.

In commodities, crude oil futures for March were gaining $0.15, or 0.28%, at $52.79 a barrel.

Gold futures for April were gaining $3.70, or 0.28%, at $1,317.90 an ounce.

Silver futures for March were up $0.112, or 0.71%, at $15.825 an ounce, while Copper futures for March were edging up marginally, at $2.8295 per pound.

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