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March 12, 2014  Wed 7:16 AM CT

SPX: SEE CHART GET CHAIN FIND STRATEGIES
Stocks are pulling back from long-term highs this morning as traders take profits and worry about weakness in China.

S&P 500 futures are down about 0.25 percent, and most European indexes are down more than 1 percent. Asia was also negative, led by a 2.6 percent drop in Tokyo and a 1.7 percent slide in Hong Kong.

The S&P 500 has inched lower the last two sessions following an outside "spinning top" on Friday, when the index made a new high but also trading below the previous session's low. That could make some chart watchers expect a pullback.

Stocks rallied last month on optimism about improving growth in the United States and Europe, but momentum has slowed this week amid few economic data releases. Attention is now focusing on softness in China and the looming referendum in Crimea this Sunday. Copper, viewed as a proxy for Chinese manufacturing and construction, fell sharply in the overnight session.

The only headlines scheduled for today are weekly mortgage applications and crude-oil inventories. Tomorrow's calendar brings Chinese industrial production, initial jobless claims, and monthly retail sales.

Financials and transports, which had lagged the broader market earlier this year, are the only two sectors to climb in the last week. Utilities and energy have remained the weakest areas.

In company-specific news, Express is down 16 percent after earnings and guidance lagged estimates. The report was consistent with poor results elsewhere in the retail industry. VeriFone Systems surged 11 percent after profit and revenue beat consensus.

Copper has rebounded from its overnight lows and is up 0.5 percent. West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell 1.6 percent while Brent crude is down 0.6 percent, a differential that potentially favors refinery stocks. Gold and silver advanced almost 1 percent.

Currencies are modestly bearish, with the safe-haven Japanese yen up across the board and the risk-correlated Australian dollar lower. The euro, however, is pushing higher against the U.S. dollar.
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