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The market closed higher once again as investors await earnings from Intel. Stocks were higher by 0.25% on light volume. Intel and JP Morgan report earnings in the next 24 hours and will set the tone heading into the weekend. The bulk of reports come out next week, however, so investors would be wise not to knee-jerk react as they did following Alcoa.  Daily Futures wraps up the action from all markets:

U.S. Economy
The U.S. Labor Department said that jobless claims were up 11,000 last week to 444,000, more than expected. The March 2001 eurodollars closed up .065 at 98.475.

The U.S. Commerce Department said that retail sales were down .3% in December, weaker than expected. They also said that inventories were up .4% in November, more than expected.

The U.S. Treasury sold $13 billion of 30-year T-bonds at a median yield of 4.61% with a bid-to-cover ratio of 2.68. The March U.S. T-bonds closed up 27/32nds at 116.25/32nds.

Grains and Cotton
The USDA said that, as of last week, 2009-2010 exports of:
Corn remained up 5% from a year ago.
Soybeans increased from up 38% to up 42% from a year ago.
Wheat slipped from down 28% to down 29% from a year ago.
Cotton improved from down 37% to down 36% from a year ago.
Mark soybeans were down 8.5 cents at $9.84.

March wheat dropped 9.25 cents to $5.277, still pressured by the USDA’s large 2009-2010 U.S. ending stocks estimate.

The USDA also said that net sales of cotton totaled 437,000 bales, last week, much more than usual. March cotton closed down .52 at 72.91.

The USDA said that net sales of beef totaled 6,300 tons last week, up from 4,300 tons the previous week. April cattle closed up .85 at 90.55, the highest close in five months.

March lumber closed up its $10 limit at $247.00, helped by yesterday’s comment in the Beige Book that “home sales increased toward the end of 2009 in most Federal Reserve Districts.”

The European Cocoa Association said that cocoa grinding were up .6% in the fourth quarter from a year ago to 351,316 tons, the first annual increase in a year. March cocoa ended up $3 at $3,392.

The U.S. Department of Energy said that underground supplies of natural gas were down 266 billion cubic feet last week to 2.852 trillion cubic feet. Supplies are now up 4% from a year ago. March natural gas closed down 13.4 cents at $5.570 with warmer temperatures over most of the U.S. this week.

The U.S. Commerce Department said that retail sales at gasoline stations were up 1.0% in December and up 34% from a year ago. March crude oil ended down .16 at $79.88.

February gold closed up $6.20 at $1,143.00 with ongoing support from a federal funds rate that is near zero.

Australia’s Bureau of Statistics said that the unemployment rate fell from 5.7% to 5.5% in December with a net gain of 35,200 jobs, much stronger than expected. The March Australian dollar finished up .82 at 92.59, the highest close in eight weeks.

Eurostat said that industrial production in the EU-27 was up .9% in November, but down 6.4% from a year ago. Also, the European Central Bank met and kept its interest rate unchanged at 1.0% for the eighth consecutive month. The March euro was down .10 at $1.45010.

Core machinery orders in Japan were down 11.3% in November, much weaker than expected.