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Stocks jumped again today as investors anticipate a strong earnings season.   Stocks were also pushed higher after better than expected data from retailers and the commerce department.   The S&P 500 ended the day higher by 0.7%.   After a massive surge in the first 4 days of the week we could be due for a breather as earnings season truly picks up momentum next week.   As always, Daily Futures summarizes the action from across all markets:

U.S. Economy
The U.S. Labor Department said that jobless claims were down 33,000 last week to 521,000, less than expected and the lowest in nine months.

The U.S. Commerce Department said that wholesale sales were up 1.0% in August, but down 17.7% from a year ago. Inventories were down 1.3% in August and down 14.7% from a year ago. The December 2010 eurodollars were down .04 at 98.395.

The U.S. Treasury sold $12 billion of 30-year T-bonds at a yield of 4.009%, a higher yield than expected. The December U.S. T-bonds fell 1.05/32nds to 121.23/32nds.

According to Thomson Reuters, same-store sales at 30 U.S. retailers were up .6% in September, the first positive gain in over a year.

Grains and Cotton
The USDA said that, as of last week, 2009-2010 exports of:
Corn improved from up 15% to up 20% from a year ago.
Soybeans fell from up 56% to up 24% from a year ago.
Wheat improved from down 38% to down 37% from a year ago.
Cotton improved from down 33% to down 31% from a year ago.

More rain continues to fall over much of the Midwest with colder temperatures expected this weekend. December corn closed up 4.25 cents at $3.64, the highest close in two months. November soybeans finished up 24 cents at $9.36, the highest close in over two weeks.

According to Dow Jones Newswires, Japan’s Ag Ministry bought 86,000 tons of wheat from the U.S., 42,000 tons from Australia, and 21,000 tons from Canada. December wheat closed up 10.75 cents at $4.74, the highest close in over a month.

The USDA said that net sales of beef totaled 14,500 tons last week, up from 8,800 tons the previous week. December cattle were up .25 at 84.32.

Are the short-sellers getting shook out of the market? December hogs jumped up 1.77 to 53.52, the highest close in ten weeks.

Canada’s Mortgage and Housing Corp. said that housing starts were at an annual rate of 150,100 units in September, down 4.6% from the pace in August, but not as weak as expected. January lumber ended up .10 at $184.00.

March sugar dropped .58 to 22.54, the third day lower, blamed on profit-taking.

The U.S. Department of Energy said that underground supplies of natural gas were up 69 billion cubic feet last week to 3.658 trillion cubic feet. Supplies are now up 15% from a year ago and close to their estimated maximum of 3.89 trillion cubic feet. December natural gas was up 5.6 cents at $5.739.

December gold climbed another $11.90 to a new record high of $1,056.30, while the dollar fell lower.

December copper closed up 11.90 cents at $2.8985, the highest close in three weeks, encouraged by today’s improved jobless claims and the weak dollar.

Australia’s Bureau of Statistics said that the unemployment rate improved from 5.8% to 5.7% in September with a net gain of 40,600 jobs, much better than expected. The December Australian dollar jumped up 1.74 cents to 90.09, the highest close in 14 months.

The Bank of England and the European Central Bank both met and kept their interest rates unchanged, as expected. The December British pound closed up 1.30 cents at $1.6062, the highest close in two weeks.

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