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Stocks begin New Year to the upside

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks are rebounding in what's likely to be a quiet first session of 2015.

S&P 500 futures rose about 0.4 percent, while a downward revision in European manufacturing numbers pushed shares modestly lower across the Atlantic. Mumbai and Hong Kong both rallied more than 1 percent overnight, while Tokyo remained closed for the holidays.

The S&P 500 slid into the closing bell on Wednesday and is back below its record high earlier in the week. Sentiment has benefited from signs that the consumer economy is returning to where it stood before the 2008 financial crisis. There have also been few catalysts to drive trading recently, although the calendar is more active in coming weeks.

The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index at 10 a.m. ET is the big event today, and may provide important clues about whether the recent drop in energy prices has hurt the industrial sector. Next week brings key monthly employment data, followed by the onset of corporate earnings in mid-January.

Few clear trends or leadership patterns have been discernible recently, according to our researchLAB scanner. One big question facing investors is whether energy and materials stocks will rebound from their big drops. There have also been signs that banks and homebuilders are coming back to life after consolidating for more than a year.

In company-specific news, Linn Energy fell 7 percent after halving its investment plans in response to lower oil and gas prices. Cliffs Natural Resources, which had bullish call buying on Wednesday, also gained 4 percent before the opening bell.

Oil fell about 2 percent and copper is fractionally lower. The U.S. dollar is up across the board, gaining against the euro, Japanese yen and commodity-based currencies like the Australian and Canadian dollars.

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