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October 8, 2013  Tue 7:12 AM CT

SPX: SEE CHART GET CHAIN FIND STRATEGIES
Stocks are inching lower today amid continued deadlock in Washington.

S&P 500 futures are down fractionally, matching declines of less than half a percent in Europe. Asian markets posted small gains in the overnight session as Shanghai reopened after a week of holidays.

Volumes have been light in recent sessions as investors wait for politicians in the United States to resolve two key issues: passing a budget for the year that started this month and raising a debt ceiling by Oct. 17. So far there has been little sign of progress on either front, but the S&P 500 has remained within 3 percentage points of its all-time high reached last month.

Individual companies and groups have managed to rally despite the broader market drifting on light volume. Energy stocks have remained the most active group as growth in North American oil and gas production draws interest. Yesterday, for instance, Weatherford International long-term call buying and Carl Icahn disclosed that he had purchased almost 6 percent of Talisman Energy--another name that saw bullish options activity in recent sessions.

While the government shutdown has deprived the market of key economic data because agencies are closed, investors will soon receive a flow of tradable news as companies begin to report third-quarter earnings. The big releases begin after the closing bell today with Alcoa and Yum Brands. Retailers also report same-store sales on Thursday morning, and big financials like JP Morgan and Bank of America issue their quarterly numbers on Friday morning into early next week.

Commodity and foreign-exchange trading is modestly bullish today, with oil, copper, the euro, and Australian dollar climbing slightly. The Japanese yen and precious metals are down fractionally, and agricultural products are mixed.

TLM is climbing 6 percent in early trading on the news of Icahn's investment. Insurance stock Tower Group International is down 27 percent after announcing it must add $365 million to its reserves and take a $215 million impairment charge. Jamba dropped 10 percent after weak sales traffic and margins caused the juice company to lower full-year guidance.
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