Stocks to decline economic concerns, Facebook earns, RIM launch weigh on markets

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TORONTO - The Toronto stock market headed for a lower open Thursday amid concerns over data that showed the U.S. economy stalled late last year.

Research In Motion Ltd., (TSX:RIM) now renamed BlackBerry, is expected to again weigh on the TSX, a day after the launch of its new BlackBerry 10 product lineup. Its stock tumbled almost 12 per cent Wednesday as investors weigh how the two new smartphones — the Z10 and Q10 — will be received by consumers.

Analysts have noted that U.S. customers won't be able to get BlackBerrys until March, a month later than it's available in Canada and several weeks after the company's important Super Bowl ads debut. RIM stock was down a further six per cent in pre-market trading in New York, dropping 84 cents to US$12.94.

In recent weeks, RIM stock had soared 200 per cent from its 52-week low of $6.10 of last September in anticipation over the new product, seen as a make or break effort by the company. RIM's BlackBerry has lost market share to Apple's iPhone and the Galaxy brand of smartphones from Samsung.

Potash Corp. (TSX:POT) will also be in focus after it reported that its fourth-quarter profit fell to US$421 million, or 48 cents per share, missing analyst estimates by nine cents a share. The result includes a US$41-million charge related to the settlement of antitrust claims in the United States as well as substantially lower revenue as customers delayed their buying decisions amid economic uncertainty.

The Saskatoon-based potash producer's revenue for the quarter was $1.64 billion, down $1.86 billion a year earlier, and also below analyst estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters.

The Canadian dollar was down 0.1 of a cent to 99.75 cents US ahead of data showing how the economy fared during November. Statistics Canada was expected to report gross domestic product grew by 0.2 per cent on top of a 0.1 per cent rise during October.

U.S. futures were little changed a day after data showed the U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 0.1 per cent from October through December for the first time since the recession ended.

The negative reading raised doubts about the sustainability of a rally that has seen the Dow industrials surge 6.3 per cent since the start of the year, climbing close to 14,000 and within touching distance of its record level.

The Dow Jones industrial futures were off one point to 13,837, the Nasdaq futures shed 6.8 points to 2,729 while the S&P 500 futures slipped 0.25 of a point to 1,495.

In other corporate news, Facebook delivered fourth-quarter earnings of $64 million, or 3 cents per share, down 79 per cent from a year earlier when it was still a privately held company. Revenue rose 40 per cent to $1.59 billion, surpassing analysts’ expectations of $1.51 billion. Ex-items, Facebook earned 17 cents per share, two cents ahead of estimates.

But the stock was down five per cent in pre-market trading and concern over rising expenses.

Traders also looked to the release of U.S. consumer spending and jobless insurance application reports during the morning.

Commodities were mixed with February crude down 24 cents to US$97.70 a barrel.

Copper dipped a cent to US$3.74 after running ahead six cents on Wednesday. Bullion stepped back $8.30 to Us$1,673.30 an ounce.

European bourses rose with London's FTSE 100 index down 0.5 per cent, Frankfurt's DAX declined 0.33 per cent while the Paris CAC 40 fell 0.9 per cent.

Earlier in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index, closed 0.2 per cent higher, recovering from early losses sparked by lower-than-expected growth in December’s industrial production. Output climbed a seasonally adjusted 2.5 per cent from November but most analysts had forecast an improvement of more than four per cent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.4 per cent South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.1 per cent.

Organizations: Research In Motion Ltd., TSX, Apple Samsung Dow Jones Potash Statistics Canada FTSE 100

Geographic location: United States, TORONTO, Canada New York London Frankfurt Asia Decembers

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