What you need to know before the TSX opens

TORONTO — Energy stocks will likely put pressure on the Toronto stock market Thursday as the OPEC cartel considers what to do about plunging oil prices.Prices continued to tumble with the January contract down $1.42 to a fresh four-year low of US$72.28 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.OPEC oil ministers are meeting in Vienna to consider a cut to production to put a floor under prices that have fallen about 30% since mid-summer, when prices were elevated by geopolitical worries. Prices have steadily fallen since then because of a strengthening greenback, lower demand prospects and, particularly, a glut of oil.However, analysts are assigning a low probability to such a production cut. “Expectations on whether OPEC will announce a production cut are essentially split,” said Keng Goh, Associated Foreign Exchange Strategist at RBC Europe. “Our energy analysts assign about a 35% probability of a cut.”Lower oil prices are starting to bite into Canadian provincial finances. The Alberta government now expects a barrel of oil to trade at an average of US$75 a barrel for the rest of the fiscal year ending next March.Revenue from Alberta’s energy sector generally accounts for about 25% of the province’s total revenue.Meanwhile, the Canadian dollar dipped 0.08 of a cent to 88.92 cents US. It could be a relatively quiet trading day on the TSX with American markets closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Markets reopen Friday for a shortened session.Gold prices also headed lower with February bullion off $2.10 to US$1,195.40 an ounce while March copper was unchanged at US$2.95 a pound.On the economic front, European Central Bank head Mario Draghi says the euro currency union remains “incomplete” and needs to be strengthened with better oversight of member countries’ economic policies. He said the 18 member countries have agreed not to bail each other out through fiscal transfers — so they need other ways of keeping problems in one country from affecting them all.The eurozone is struggling to emerge from a debt crisis that began in 2009-10 and is still mired in low growth and high unemployment.

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