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Stock markets look to BoC rate decision, corporate earnings for guidance

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TORONTO - The Bank of Canada's latest rate-setting announcement on Wednesday will be a major focus for traders this week, but after last week's disappointment on the jobs front the decision appears to be a foregone conclusion.

"The tone will be dovish," Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer for Sun Life Global Investments, said of expected comments by the central bank and governor Stephen Poloz.

"It's not going to be highlighting that things are good. I think they're going to say there are still risks to the economy and I think they will say there is some weakness."

The backdrop of weak jobs growth has most economists expecting the bank will keep its overnight rate at one per cent.

Adatia said he doesn't think Poloz will even entertain a conversation about interest rates for fear that it might spook the markets.

"They're going to say that interest rates are going to be low for a period of time," he said. "But I have a feeling they might not even say a lot more about rates and just leave it as is."

Statistics Canada reported Friday that the economy had an unexpected loss of 9,400 jobs in June, with the unemployment rate rising one-tenth of a point to 7.1 per cent — the highest since last December. Economists had expected another big month with 24,000 jobs created after a gain of 25,800 in May.

One of the few positive points in the report was that full-time employment rose by 33,500, which partly made up for the loss of 43,000 part-time jobs last month.

Meanwhile, traders will also be looking to the consumer price index for June, which is being released on Friday.

Annual inflation rose three-tenths of a point to an annualized 2.3 per cent in May on the strength of higher energy prices and other more broad-based price increases. The figure surprised markets as well as the Bank of Canada, which has set target inflation at two per cent.

Core inflation, which discounts temporary volatility in such items as energy, is also proving frothy. That figure rose three-tenths of a point to 1.7 per cent, also nearing the bank's sweet spot.

At the time, the inflation numbers brought up fresh concerns that Poloz might be forced to consider raising interest rates sooner than the mid-2015 to early-2016 time frame that analysts had expected.

Poloz is thought to be reluctant to hike rates, a move that would tend to support a rise in the value of the loonie, making Canadian goods more expensive and thwarting his hopes for an export-led recovery.

Meanwhile, minutes released last week from the latest Federal Reserve meeting indicated that the U.S. central bank also wants to keep interest rates steady for the time being, even as it ends its monthly bond buyback program by next October.

Adatia said going forward, all eyes will be on three major economic indicators.

"(The bank) is going to be keeping an eye on the housing market. Is it slowing down at a slow or a fast pace? Canadian debt levels are also important. Are they heading in the right direction, getting lower or getting worse?"

"Housing prices and debt levels together can potentially cause a severe downturn down the road, if not corrected properly," he said.

Traders will also be looking to corporate earnings to see if the results justify the highs seen in both Toronto and U.S. markets as of late. The Toronto Stock Market is up 10.96 per cent year to date.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. (TSX:CP) and fertilizer producer Potash Corp. (TSX:POT) are among the major companies set to release earnings this week in Canada.

In the U.S., investment bank Morgan Stanley, cigarette maker Philip Morris International Inc., General Electric and tech giant Google were some of the big firms scheduled to report.

Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.

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