Stocks tick higher into year-end

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Stocks are edging higher on the final day of 2013, and volumes are likely to be modest with the market closed tomorrow.

S&P 500 futures are up more than 0.1 percent and have been climbing in the last 15 minutes. Europe is also posting small gains. Asia was mostly higher in the overnight session as Shanghai advanced more than half a percent.

Equities climbed steadily since January, marking the first time since 1989 that the S&P 500 remained above its 200-day moving average for the entire calendar year. Gains were fueled by investors returning to the market, an improving economy and favorable monetary conditions.

While strength focused on the consumer and health-care sectors in the first half, sentiment has shifted more recently toward materials, industrials, and technology. European stocks have also been returning to favor in recent months.

The S&P 500 traded in a very narrow range yesterday and has been pulling back slightly after a strong rally Dec. 18-26. Activity will probably be quiet today with a holiday tomorrow for New Year's.  Thursday could be active because key manufacturing data will be released in China, Europe, and the United States.

Attention will then focus on monthly employment numbers next week and the onset of earnings season the following week.

Commodities and currencies are painting a cautious picture despite the gains in stock futures. Oil fell about half a percent and natural-gas is declining more than a full percent. Precious metals remain weak and copper is down slightly. The euro is also lower while the safe-haven Japanese yen is posting small gains.

In company-specific news, Marvell Technology is indicated higher by almost 6 percent after buyout firm KKR disclosed a stake in the company. The news comes just one day after a similar report involving Crocs and Blackstone. (MRVL also had bullish option activity last week.) Hertz is also climbing after adopting a "poison pill" in response to unusual activity in its shares.


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