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Stocks in holding pattern near highs

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks remain near record highs with several big economic events looming next week.

S&P 500 futures are down 0.15 percent but are less than a percentage point below Wednesday's peak. Most overseas markets were little-changed, aside from India, which rallied almost 2 percent as investors continue to focus on the potential for tax and regulatory reforms.

Equities have been supported by modest economic growth, low interest rates, and continued investor demand. Today's main calendar item is revised fourth-quarter gross domestic product at 8:30 a.m. ET.

While next week brings several important catalysts, it's not clear how they will affect sentiment: The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index is due Monday, ADP's private-sector payrolls report comes Wednesday, the European Central Bank meets Thursday, and U.S. non-farm payrolls will be released Friday.

The Nasdaq 100, the only major stock index that remains below all-time highs, has emerged as the strongest in the last month. Investors have also favored solar-energy stocks, oil refineries, gun makers, Japanese banks, and providers of bulk materials like gravel and cement. Utilities, real-estate investment trusts, and precious metals have fared the worst as the market prepares for the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates later this year. (See our researchLAB market scanner for more.)

In company-specific news, Monster Beverage surged 9 percent after earnings and revenue beat estimates. Ross Stores is poised to break $100 for the first time ever, also lifted by strong results. J.C. Penney missed consensus and Weight Watchers issued weak guidance, which sent both stocks down more than 10 percent.

Crude oil rose about 2 percent as it continues to hold long-term lows. Silver and copper are little-changed. The greenback is down slightly as the euro, Australian dollar and Canadian dollar try to hold their ground following big declines.

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