Stocks inch higher into year's end

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Stocks are inching higher this morning in what could be a light trading session before the New Year.

S&P 500 futures are up more than 0.1 percent, while European markets are fractionally lower. Asia posted modest gains overnight as the Japanese yen continues to weaken.

Equities are ending 2013 on a strong note, closing at new record highs in five of the last seven sessions. Every major sector has appreciated this year, and among those only utilities failed to post double-digit gains. Consumer- and healthcare-related stocks led in the first half, but sentiment has shifted more recently toward technology, materials, and industrials as investors look for business spending and a stronger economy to drive growth.

Our researchLAB market scanner also shows buying over the last week in homebuilders and coal miners, which have lagged since January. On an index basis, December has seen strength shifting toward the Nasdaq and away from transports.

Pending homes sales at 10 a.m. ET are the only economic report on the agenda today. Volumes will likely be muted this trading session and the next before markets close for New Year's on Wednesday. The news picks up on Thursday, when key manufacturing numbers are released for China, Europe, and the United States. Monthly employment numbers follow next week.

In company-specific news, Crocs rose about 8 percent after receiving an investment from Blackstone. Trina Solar is up a similar amount on news it was hired to build a large power plant in western China. Cooper Tire & Rubber fell almost 7 percent after its takeover by Apollo Tyres fell through.

Natural gas continues to stand out among commodities, rallying 2 percent while oil falls half a percent. Gold and silver are down 1 percent and 2 percent respectively. Copper is little-changed, and agricultural products are weak.

Foreign-exchange trading is more clearly bullish, with the euro higher and the Japanese yen lower across the board.

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