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Positive trade data out of China should help provide the market some support today, at least in the early going, though the overall focus remains on earnings season. The weekly Jobless Claims data on the home front and the no-change interest rate decision by the European Central Bank are unlikely to have much traction in today’s trading activity.

China’s better-than-expected export growth numbers for December provides another data point indicating that the country’s economy may be on the mend. The 14.1% jump in December exports was the highest growth pace since May 2012 and significantly higher than what economists were expecting. This corroborates other indicators like industrial production and electricity that have also started showing momentum in recent months.

While this data will likely perk up the outlook for commodities like industrial metals and energy, we should be cautious in reading too much into one month’s trade data. The caution is particularly warranted given the uncertain outlook for the U.S. and European economies, China’s main export destinations. With the U.S. on track to embark on its own austerity measures this year and Europe unlikely to get out of a recession in 2013, China’s export-centric growth machine is hardly in the clear.

On the home front, the focus remains on the fourth quarter earnings season which gets into higher gear next week. Notwithstanding the negative pre-announcement from Tiffany (TIF - Analyst Report), the early run of reports have been moderately on the positive side. Results for a number of the 26 S&P 500 companies that have reported already like Oracle (ORCL - Analyst Report), Alcoa (AA - Analyst Report) and Monsanto (MON - Analyst Report) have been better than what they did in the third quarter. But that may not be saying much given how underwhelming the third quarter results actually were.

We will get a better sense of this earnings season in the coming days, but the final earnings growth picture will likely be not much different from the preceding quarter’s flat finish.

There wasn’t much newsy content to this morning’s weekly Jobless Claims data. It went up by 4K to 371K, while the expectation was for the numbers to drop to around 365K. But taking into account the revision to the prior week’s number, this morning’s increase was even smaller. The four-week average, which smooths out the week-to-week volatility, increased by 6.8K to 365.8K. The labor market has been fairly stable lately, and this data is in-line with that view.

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