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Stocks follow global markets lower

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks are pulling back from record highs this morning amid continued weakness in Europe.

S&P 500 futures declined about 0.3 percent. Most indexes across the Atlantic are down about 0.5 percent to 1 percent amid continued worries about Greece. Tokyo and Hong Kong fell more than 1 percent overnight as the safe-haven Japanese yen strengthened.

The S&P 500 closed above 2090 for the first time ever yesterday, also fighting back from early losses. Investors have been putting money to work in a broad range of sectors, without a single dominant theme. On one hand, they've bought consumer-discretionary stocks to benefit from the improving economy and have sought value in financials. But they've also been piling into utilities and bonds, which tend to do better in a weak economy.

Today's calendar brings the Case-Shiller index of home prices at 9 a.m. ET and consumer confidence at 10 a.m. Trading is likely to be quiet ahead of the New Year's holiday on Thursday. Attention will also focus on oil prices, which are trying to hold their ground at their lowest price in more than five years.

The energy slowdown is hitting Civeo today: The provider of housing for oil-field workers plunged 33 percent after guiding revenue well below consensus and slashing its dividend. NeuroDerm surged more than 20 percent on strong Phase II data for its potential Parkinson's drug.

Despite the worries in Greece before elections on Jan. 25, economic data continues to improve in Europe. Today, for instance, Italian manufacturing confidence rose for a third straight month and the region's central bank cited increased lending.

Commodities are mixed today. Oil fell half a percent and natural gas is down more than 1 percent, while metals are fractionally higher. The strong yen is the big story on currency markets, with the potential to hurt sentiment toward equities. The euro and Australian dollar are still trying to bottom out against the greenback.


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