Stocks ease back from record levels

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Stocks are edging lower this morning after hitting record levels yesterday.

S&P 500 futures are down marginally, while most European indexes are falling by about half a percent. Asian markets advanced overnight after yesterday's gains in the United States.

Equities have been steadily climbing since the last day of 2012 as years of pessimism lift and money--created by central banks to address financial crisis--begins to migrate from bonds. Today's weakness comes after the S&P 500 closed at its highest level since October 2007, while the Russell 2000 small-cap index and the Dow Jones Transports Average set new all-time highs.

Investors now face the choice of putting money to work with the market already up 10 percent in the last three months, or waiting for a pullback. They're also waiting for data on housing starts and housing permits at 8:30 a.m. ET and the minutes of the last Federal Reserve meeting at 2 p.m. ET.

Foreign-exchange markets are expressing a cautious sentiment, while commodities are mixed. Currencies associated with risk appetite--the euro, the Australian dollar, and the Canadian dollar--are lower, while the safe-haven Japanese yen is gaining.

Oil and copper are posting small losses, while money continues to flow out of precious metals: Gold and silver are down by about 1 percent, while platinum has lost another 2 percent of its value. Agricultural products are mixed.

In company-specific news, Express Scripts is indicated to open higher after earnings and guidance surpassed expectations. OfficeMax and Office Depot are also rallying for a second day after the companies confirmed that they will combine in an all-stock merger. Chinese Internet company Sina is also gaining after its revenue beat expectations.


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