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December 26, 2012  Wed 7:13 AM CT

SPX: SEE CHART GET CHAIN FIND STRATEGIES
Stock futures are inching higher amid optimism that politicians in Washington will avert fiscal crisis in coming days.

The S&P 500 has been climbing in the last hour and is indicated to open with a gain of about one-quarter of 1 percent. Japan's Nikkei was the one notable mover in the overnight session, rallying about 1.5 percent after a new prime minister dedicated to major stimulus took office. European markets remain closed the day after Christmas.

President Obama said he would return from vacation early to work toward a deal with Republicans that would prevent disruptive spending cuts and tax increases on Jan. 1. Worries about the so-called fiscal cliff have weighed on equities for the last month, keeping the S&P 500 in its range since the spring.

MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse reported that holiday sales rose just 0.7 percent this year, the weakest reading since the 2008 mortgage crash, partly because of the political uncertainty.

Foreign-exchange and commodities are modestly bullish today. Oil and copper are up by about half a percent, while the euro and Australian dollar are posting small gains. The Japanese yen, which usually climbs when investors are scared, is also helping risk appetite by falling sharply across the board.
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