Equities rebound as ECB lowers rates

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Stocks are rebounding this morning after a sharp drop yesterday.

S&P 500 futures are up by about one-third of a percent and have been gaining in the last hour, following a decline of almost a full percentage point on Wednesday. Markets are mostly higher across the Atlantic after the European Central Bank cut interest rates by 25 basis points. Asian bourses were mostly lower overnight.

The S&P 500 has been churning in a range for the last month as it attempts to break free of the previous peak in October 2007. The index closed Tuesday at a new all-time high but is still not far from that level.

While economic data has weakened somewhat in recent weeks, it continues to show expansion in the United States and China. Companies have also managed to maintain strong profitability despite weak revenue growth in many cases.

But homebuilding and automobiles, cornerstones of the U.S. economy, have been improving: PulteGroup, Beazer Homes, Ford, and General Motors all reported strong results this earnings season. Some technology companies, including Intel and Microsoft, have also started to outperform after going nowhere for years.

Metals are leading commodities higher this morning, with copper and silver both climbing by about 2 percent. Oil also advanced more than two-thirds of a percent, and most agricultural products are higher.

Foreign-exchange trading is mostly bullish as well. The euro was down slightly but is now climbing after the ECB's rate cut. The Australian dollar also fell modestly against the greenback, which is unusual given the move in copper. The Japanese yen is down across the board.

In company-specific news, BZH is indicated to open higher by more than 6 percent after quarterly revenue came in well above consensus forecasts and management cited "a substantially higher backlog." GM's earnings and sales beat expectations amid strong North American demand, and the shares are up more than 3 percent in early trading.

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