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Futures flat, gold rises at end of 2011

U.S. stock futures are up slightly after marginal gains overseas in the final trading session of 2011.

Major indexes inched higher by less than 0.1 percent after yesterday's 1 percent advance by the S&P 500. European benchmarks climbed by 0.25 percent to 0.45 percent, roughly mirroring the changes in the Asia-Pacific region overnight.

Foreign-exchange trading is showing a modestly risk-averse tone, with the euro falling against "safe havens" such as the Japanese yen, the U.S. dollar, and the Swiss franc. The Canadian currency also edged lower, while the Australian dollar bucked the trend by pushing higher.

The big story in commodities is a rebound in precious metals. Gold is up almost 2 percent and silver almost 3 percent after falling hard in the last three weeks. Crude oil is down slightly, while most agricultural products are rebounding.

The main headline overnight came from China, with continued weakening in the manufacturing sector. The HSBC Purchasing Managers Index had a 48.7 reading in December, up from 47.7 the previous month, but any figure below 50 indicates contraction. Officials there are now expected to lower their reserve requirement for banks as the Chinese economy experiences weaker demand from abroad and falling property values at home.

Another overseas development that could affect trading will come from Madrid, where Spain's new center-right government is scheduled to announce about $5 billion in austerity measures.

There are no major economic reports or important company headlines so far this morning.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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