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Stocks flat despite gains in Europe

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks are roughly flat so far this morning despite gains overseas and strong economic trade from China.

S&P 500 futures are posting small gains, while the Nasdaq is up by more than 0.1 percent. European indexes are up by 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent. Most Asian stocks were higher overnight, though Japan's Nikkei fell almost 2 percent on profit-taking.

China reported that exports rose 25 percent and imports grew 29 percent, both of which exceeded estimates and signaled robust growth in the world's No. 2 economy. Lending and financing activity were also strong.

The S&P 500 has been consolidating around 1500 for the last two weeks following a big January rally. Pullbacks have been shallow, suggesting that potential buyers outnumber sellers amid a secular shift of capital away from bonds and into equities.

Commodities are bullish, with oil, copper, and silver all up by about 0.5 percent. Most agricultural foodstuffs are higher as well. Foreign exchange is painting a more bearish picture as the Japanese yen rebounds from a major selloff. The move came after Finance Minister Taro Aso said it had fallen too far, too fast. Nonetheless, other currencies associated with risk, mainly the euro and the Australian dollar, both rose against the greenback today.

There are no more major events on today's economic calendar, but next week brings a full roster of political and economic headlines, including a meeting of European finance ministers, the State of the Union Address, and gross domestic product reports from Germany and Japan.

In company-specific news, business-networking stock LinkedIn is up 10 percent after its earnings beat expectations. Nuance Communications is down more than 15 percent after higher expenses caused earnings to miss consensus. Coinstar is indicated lower by 8 percent after forecasting a weak first quarter.

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