Traders Fixated on Politics Amid Data Dearth


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U.S. stock-index futures were flat as traders looked for any clues on when lawmakers will strike a bargain to halt a week-long government shutdown and lift the debt ceiling.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:10 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 12 points, or 0.09%, to 14863, S&P 500 futures gained 2.3 points, or 0.13%, to 1670 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 5.5 points, or 0.17%, to 3211.

Congress triggered a partial government shutdown more than a week ago. Since then, essentially nothing has changed. The legislative body remains deadlocked and without a clear path forward. Meanwhile, the deadline to boost the debt ceiling looms fewer than 10 days away.

"Overall, markets continue to trade tepidly in the shadow of the ongoing US fiscal policy impasse," analysts at Nomura wrote to clients.

The shutdown has also halted most government-issued economic reports. Generally, the Commerce Department would release data on U.S. trade at 8:30 a.m. ET. However, the furlough of non-essential federal workers has made that impossible.

The National Federation of Independent Business' gauge of small business sentiment fell to 93.9 in September from 94.1 in August.

"The change in this month's Index was little more than 'statistical noise,' but the drop in outlook for future economic conditions is evidence that many owners are keeping an eye on Washington," NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg wrote in the report.

"Prospects for politicians and policymakers 'getting it right' are low, and job creators are rolling their eyes and shaking their heads thinking, 'This is certainly not the way to run the largest enterprise in the world.'"

On the corporate front, aluminum giant Alcoa (NYSE:AA) unofficially kicks off earnings season in its first quarterly reports since being dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Taco Bell parent Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM) also posts its quarterly figures after the bell.

J.C. Penney (NYSE:JCP) shares surged in early trading after the struggling retailer said same-store sales would be higher in September than August, hinting at a potential recovery.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures rose 57 cents, or 0.55%, to $103.60 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline gained 0.86% to $2.647 a gallon. In metals, gold dipped $6.60, or 0.48%, to $1,319 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.28% to 2915, the English FTSE 100 fell 0.76% to 6389 and the German DAX slipped 0.11% to 8592.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei rose 0.3% to 13895 and the Chinese Hang Seng climbed 0.89% to 23179.

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