Fed hopes, German data lift indexes

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Stocks are higher today as investors hope for a deal in Washington and more easy money from the Federal Reserve. Investor data from Germany was also strong.

Futures on the S&P 500 rose by about one-quarter of 1 percent, following gains of a similar magnitude in Europe. Asian indexes were mixed overnight, and energy prices are higher.

Attention is focusing on the Fed's monetary announcement tomorrow afternoon, which is expected to include a fourth round of so-called quantitative easing. The Wall Street Journal also reported that lawmakers and the White House are making progress on budget talks to avoid sharp tax increases and spending cuts at year-end.

The news has been positive overseas as well, with German's Zew survey of investor confidence much higher than expected. That came one day after Chinese retail sales and industrial production exceeded forecasts. China and Germany have the world's second- and fourth-largest economies.

Foreign-exchange and commodity trading shows a trend toward risk appetite: The euro is modestly higher, and oil up by half a percent. The Japanese yen is also lower across the board, which is usually positive for stocks. Copper and silver are edging back from yesterday's gains, but most agricultural foodstuffs are modestly higher.

In company-specific news, Urban Outfitters is up about 7 percent in early trading after Goldman Sachs resumed coverage of the company with a neutral rating and a $42 price target. URBN closed at $37 yesterday.

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