Stocks advance after Alcoa numbers

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks are inching higher this morning as earnings season gets underway.

S&P 500 futures are up almost 0.2 percent, while European indexes are little-changed. Most Asian markets advanced by about 0.5 percent overnight after aluminum giant Alcoa forecast stronger demand, partially because of accelerating growth in China.

The S&P 500 began 2013 with a strong rally but has been drifting in a range for the last four sessions as it pushes against its October highs. Economically sensitive transportation stocks have been outperforming over the last month, while the Russell 2000 small-cap index and the S&P 400 mid-cap index are at record levels. That suggests risk appetite is stronger than the broad-based S&P 500 implies.

While much attention has focused recently on troubled public finances in the United States and Europe, economic fundamentals here and in China have been improving. AA confirmed that trend by raising its 2013 outlook for global aluminum consumption to 7 percent from 6 percent.

Attention will increasingly focus on earnings as companies release fourth-quarter results. There also no major economic reports scheduled for the rest of the week.

Commodities and currencies are painting a modestly bullish picture, with the euro lower against the U.S. dollar but higher against the Japanese yen. Copper advanced about half a percentage point, oil is little changed and most agricultural foodstuffs are higher. Precious metals are posting small losses.

AA advanced about 2 percent on its strong financial report. Clearwire is also likely to be active after Dish Network made a competing $2.2 billion offer for the broadband company, which had previously agreed to be acquired by Sprint Nextel. CLWR is currently up 8 percent in premarket trading.

Computer hard-drive maker Seagate Technology rose 3 percent after raising its revenue outlook, while Apollo Group is down 7 percent after lowering its guidance.

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