North American markets look set for a higher open today with investors focused on a cease-fire deal in Ukraine, earnings misses and a major corporate shakeup at transportation giant Bombardier Inc.Bombardier in particular will be closely watched after the iconic Canadian corporate giant announced that longtime chairman Laurent Beaudoin — a member of the family that has controlled the company since it was founded — will be replaced by his son Pierre Beaudoin, who has been chief executive. Bombardier is also suspending its dividend and plans to issue up to $2.5 billion of securities to bolster its cash reserves. Bombardier has faced a string of delays related to its new CSeries jetliner. The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.55 of a cent to 79.66 cents US as the American currency weakened and commodity prices advanced. U.S. futures were also positive as France and Germany brokered a deal that will see a ceasefire take effect in Ukraine on Sunday. The Dow Jones industrial futures gained 84 points to 17,915, the Nasdaq futures were ahead 26.5 points to 4,323 and the S&P 500 futures were up 10.5 points to 2,076.2. Insurance stocks could also weigh on the TSX in the wake of earnings reports from Manulife Financial and Sun Life Financial. Manulife earned $640 million or 33 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter of last year compared with a profit of $1.3 billion or 68 cents a year earlier. The insurer said its core earnings per share amounted to 36 cents per diluted share, five cents below estimates. It also said that macroeconomic factors including low interest rates “produces headwinds in 2015.” Sun Life’s net income dropped to $502 million or 81 cents per diluted share from $550 million or 90 cents in the same 2013 period. Total revenue was $7.38 billion, up from $4.71 billion in the same 2013 quarter. On an adjusted basis, Sun Life reported underlying net income of $360 million or 59 cents per share, missing estimates of 78 cents per share. There was also further evidence of how the collapse in oil prices is forcing companies to quickly cut costs. Cenovus Energy expects to cut its staff by about 15%, the bulk of which it says will come from its contract workforce. Prices have slid about 50% from the highs of last summer amid a huge supply/demand imbalance. On Thursday, March crude gained $1.49 to US$50.33 a barrel after falling $4 over the last two sessions amid the latest sign of rising inventories in the U.S. Elsewhere, April copper gained four gains to US$2.58 a pound while April bullion rose $3.70 to US$1,223.30 an ounce. The Greek debt crisis also vied for investor attention after the country’s talks with eurozone creditors on overhauling its bailout loans broke down. Still, markets were optimistic a deal will be reached in time for Greece to avoid a potential exit from the euro.
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