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Stocks higher on strength overseas

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks are climbing again on bullish sentiment in Japan and Germany, although commodities are sounding a more cautious tone.

S&P 500 futures are up almost two-tenths of a percent, while European markets are up by almost a full percentage point. But the real move occurred in Tokyo, where the Nikkei index surged almost 3 percent.

The rally in Japan follows a technical collapse of the yen through the key 101 technical level against the United States dollar. Headlines were also positive in Europe as German exports rose more than expected and Luxembourg-based steel giant ArcelorMittal reported better-than-expected quarterly results.

Yesterday, the S&P 500 declined for the first time since breaking out above the key 1600 level last week. It's only declined in three of the last 15 sessions. The index has been steadily advancing as credit spreads narrow and money flees low yields in the bond market. The big question now facing investors is whether to keep buying after the strong run or to wait for a pullback.

There are relatively few catalysts to help inform that decision. The only event on the calendar today is a speech on banking regulation by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke as the market opens at 9:30 a.m. ET. It will probably be watched closely for clues on the central bank's plans to stimulus the economy.

Despite the gains in equities, oil is down a full percent and precious metals are lower by more than 2 percent. Copper, often viewed as a bellwether for the global economy, is fighting back from earlier losses and is now little changed. Agricultural products are mostly lower.

The foreign-exchange market is also painting a mixed picture. While the selloff in the yen is bullish, other currencies associated with risk appetite such as the euro, Australian dollar and Canadian dollar are down against the greenback.

In company-specific news, retailer Gap is indicated higher after reporting strong sales and issuing a bullish profit forecast. Online travel agency Priceline.com is indicated lower on weak guidance, while health-care IT company Allscripts Healthcare Solutions fell after earnings missed consensus estimates.


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