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Stocks up with S&P 500 at key level

David Russell (david.russell@optionmonster.com)

Stocks are eking out small gains this morning as the S&P 500 clings to its key 200-day moving average.

U.S. equity index futures rose by about one-third of 1 percent, and have been improving as the morning progresses. European indexes are also inching higher, while Asian stocks were mixed in the overnight session.

The S&P 500 has been dropping for the last month as investors take profits after a big third-quarter rally. They've been pricing in the possibility of recession in Europe and higher taxes in the United States, but they are also starting to notice evidence of accelerating growth in China.

Politics are likely to be a key market driver this week as leaders in Washington debate how to avert the so-called fiscal cliff at the end of the year and officials in Europe work on a bailout for debt-laden Greece. China also said that exports grew by 11.6 percent in October, while economists had only expected a 10 percent gain.

Commodities are modestly higher on the Chinese data. Copper rose by more than half a percent, while gold and silver posted smaller gains. Oil is down slightly, and agricultural foodstuffs are mixed.

Currencies are mostly flat, with the U.S. dollar little-changed against the euro and the Japanese yen. The Australian dollar is the biggest gainer this morning, thanks to the Chinese exports, and continues to stand out in the foreign-exchange market.

Homebuilders, one of the strongest industry groups in the last year, will also be in focus today with D.R. Horton and Beazer Homes reporting results. DHI is up by about 2 percent after profit exceeded expectations, but BZH is little-changed after its revenue beat consensus. Jefferies is another big mover, climbing 19 percent after agreeing to be purchased by Leucadia National for $3.6 billion.

The bond market is also closed today in observance of Veterans Day, and there are no economic reports on today's calendar.

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