S&P 500 Set to Open Near Record Highs

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The S&P 500 was poised to open near all-time highs as traders parsed through a round of economic data and earnings from Wal-Mart. 

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As of 8:37 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 13 points, or 0.08%, to 15792, S&P 500 futures advanced 3.3 points, or 0.18%, to 1782 and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 5.5 points, or 0.16%, to 3396.

The S&P 500 logged a record high for the 34th time this year on Wednesday. Since January, the broad-market barometer has surged close to 25% as the Federal Reserve has kept its foot firmly on the economy accelerator and the economy and business sectors have perked up. 

Two pieces of economic data shed fresh light on the situation.

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The Commerce Department said the U.S. trade deficit expanded in September to $41.78 billion from $38.7 billion the month prior. Economists were looking for the gap to widen to $39 billion.While international trade is a lagging indicator, it will figure directly into third-quarter gross domestic product estimates. 

The Labor Department reported number of people filing for first-time jobless benefits fell to 339,000 last week from an upwardly-revised 341,000 the week prior. Economists expected claims to rise to 339,000 from an initially-reported 336,000.The Fed has been paying close attention to data on the labor market as the central bank determines when it should begin paring back its $85-billion-dollar-a-month bond-buying program. 

Also on that front, Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who is President Barack Obama's pick to take over the chairman role from Ben Bernanke, is set to testify before the Senate. 

In corporate news, Wal-Mart (WMT) shares slumped after the world's biggest retailer posted quarterly sales that missed expectations. Still, per-share profits beat Wall Street's estimates. 

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures fell 44 cents, or 0.46%, to $93.46 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.79% to $2.649 a gallon. Gold climbed $12.50, or 0.98%, to $1,281 a troy ounce. 

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