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Stocks inch higher after Friday surge

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks are grinding higher this morning after a sharp rebound on Friday.

S&P 500 futures are up about 0.1 percent, while most European indexes are up by 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent. Asia was mostly positive in the overnight session, led by gains of more than 1 percent in Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Equities have been treading water for the last two weeks after a strong rally in mid-October. They fell on Thursday after U.S. economic growth blew past estimates, causing worries that interest rates would rise, but then snapped back the next day after a strong jobs report.

Data continues to indicate that the global economy is strengthening. In addition to the U.S. numbers, China reported better-than-expected industrial production and lower-than-expected inflation over the weekend. Japan's trade surplus was larger than forecast in September, and a government index of forward-looking conditions improved. No significant U.S. economic releases are scheduled this week.

The S&P 500 has been climbing steadily all year, with no single sector dominating. Iron, coal, and steel have been the most noteworthy gainers in the last month. More recently, fertilizer makers, life insurers, retail brokers, and financial exchanges have stood out. There has also been a shift back to U.S. equities, with the S&P 500 outperforming every other country index in the last month.

Major lenders such as Bank of America, Citigroup, and JP Morgan also rallied sharply on Friday after months of barely moving.

Commodities are little-changed this morning. West Texas Intermediate crude is down slightly as Brent crude is posting a small gain, which could support refinery stocks. Precious metals are mixed, copper is down fractionally and agricultural products are mostly higher.

Foreign-exchange markets are somewhat bullish, with the euro modestly higher against the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen.

In company-specific news, ViroPharma is rallying 24 percent after agreeing to be purchased by Shire. Transocean is also higher after agreeing to pay a dividend and cut costs following pressure from activist investor Carl Icahn. Eli Lilly is also down slightly after getting downgraded by Goldman Sachs.

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