Improving sentiment boosts futures

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Stocks are climbing this morning as improving economic data lifts sentiment overseas.

The S&P 500 has been gaining throughout the morning and is indicating a higher open by about 0.6 percent. European indexes are up by almost a full percentage point, while Asian stocks were mixed overnight.

The HSBC Purchasing Managers Survey for China confirmed an earlier reading of 50.5 for November, marking the first month of growth in more than a year. (Figures over 50 indicate expansion.) Similar reports from the Eurozone and Germany showed improvement as well.

Investors are preparing for a potentially eventful week in the United States, where lawmakers are attempting to avert a painful tax increases and spending cuts at yearend. The dreaded "fiscal cliff" has worried the markets in recent weeks, and a resolution could send equities higher.

In addition, there are several important economic data points, starting with the Institute of Supply Management's manufacturing index at 10 a.m. ET. Employment data follows later in the week and culminates with the key non-farm payroll report on Friday morning.

Commodities reflect a modest increase in confidence. Oil and copper are edging higher, while
silver is up more than 1 percent. Most agricultural foodstuffs are also higher. Foreign-exchange trading is bullish as well, with the euro, Australian dollar, and Canadian dollar climbing against the greenback.

In company-specific news, analyst upgrades are lifting Dell and Deckers Outdoor from beaten down levels. Goldman Sachs raised DELL to "buy" from "sell," while Sterne Agee lifted DECK to "buy" from "neutral." Both stocks have lost more than one-third of their value so far this year.

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