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Stocks inch higher, bucking red in Europe

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks are up slightly today as they continue trying to halt a four-week slide.

S&P 500 futures rose almost two tenths of a percent of a percent, bucking of decline of more than half a percent in Europe. Asian markets were mixed in the overnight session.

The S&P 500 is set to record a negative month for only the second time since launching on a rally in November. Simple profit taking drove shares lower earlier in the month, and this week brought the added risk of potential conflict with Syria.

But the index has spent the last three sessions attempting to hold a support level from early July. During that time the Syrian threat has eased, especially after the U.K. Parliament voted against war earlier today.

Every pullback since late 2012 has proven to be a buying opportunity, and traders must now decide whether to put money to work with the S&P 500 lingering near its 100-day moving average. They also face the prospect of a slow session today before the three-day Labor Day weekend, followed by a slew of potentially positive economic news after the holiday. It begins with Chinese manufacturing data Sunday night. The Institute of Supply Management's factory index follows Tuesday. Thursday and Friday bring European manufacturing numbers and two key employment releases in the United States. Most of those reports beat expectations last month.

Gold and silver are the big movers in the commodity markets, falling 1 percent and 2 percent respectively, as traders take profits following big rebounds in the last two months. Copper and oil are posting smaller losses. Most agricultural foodstuffs are lower as well.

Currencies are showing little volatility, but there is a slight bias toward dollar weakness. The euro is up and the yen is posting fractional gains.

In company-specific news, Salesforce.com is indicated higher after reporting strong earnings and raising guidance. Omnivision Technologies, however, is down on a weak forecast for the current quarter. Big Lots is also higher after profit beat expectations. General Electric could also be active after the Wall Street Journal reported it may spin off its store-branded credit-card business.

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