MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Set For More Records In Continued Tax-driven Rally

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

House to vote on tax bill later on Tuesday

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U.S. stocks were set for a positive trading day on Tuesday, just a day after scoring records all around on rising expectations the highly anticipated tax bill will get its final signoff this week.

What are stock futures doing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 59 points, or 0.2%, to 24,882, indicating another day in record territory for the blue-chip benchmark. On Monday, the Dow closed at an all-time high (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dow-sp-500-ready-to-power-to-new-records-on-fresh-tax-plan-optimism-2017-12-18), its 70th record in 2017 -- the most ever for a calendar year, surpassing the 69 records made in 1995.

Futures for the S&P 500 index rose 3.35 points, or 0.1%, to 2,697.75 on Tuesday, while futures for the Nasdaq-100 Index edged 6 points, or 0.1%, lower to 6,528.

Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index also ended at records on Monday.

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What's driving the markets?

Hopes that the Republicans' major tax overhaul will get approved before Christmas boosted stock markets worldwide and was also a main driver for Tuesday's actions. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the final version on Tuesday, while the Senate vote is expected to follow either on Tuesday or Wednesday.

That should be enough time for the bill to land on President Donald Trump's desk for the final signature before Christmas, which is the Republicans' self-imposed deadline.

Read:Here's what's in the Republican tax deal (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-whats-in-the-republican-tax-deal-2017-12-13)

What are strategists saying?

"The secure passage of the tax plan is coming at the right time to class the next leg up in equity markets as the Santa rally, and it's very likely to lead to yet more record closes for the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq," said James Hughes, chief market analyst at AxiTrader, in a note.

"Unsurprisingly investors have ignored the nuances of the Republican tax 'reforms' -- especially the impact it will have on the American middle class -- to instead revel in what it means for the nation's mega-corporations and millionaires," said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, in a note.

What's new in economics?

Housing starts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/housing-starts-grind-higher-making-november-the-second-highest-pace-of-the-recovery-2017-12-19) ran at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.297 million in November, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That's 3.3% higher than a revised October pace, and 12.9% higher than a year ago.

Permits, which foreshadow future starts activity, ticked up 1.4% to a 1.298 million rate.

U.S. current account deficit fell 19% to $100.6 billion in third quarter.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank President Neel Kashkari will participate in a moderated Q&A at Lambda Alpha International in Roseville, Minnesota, at 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Darden Resaturants, Inc.(DRI) rose 2.7% premarket after the company's earnings and revenues beat Wall Street expectations.

Shares of General Motors Company(GM) added 1.5% after analysts at RBC Capital Market upgraded the stock to outperform from sector perform.

Apple Inc.(AAPL) shares slipped 0.7% after analysts at Instinet cut the stock rating to neutral from buy.

Shares of LongFin Corp.(LFIN) slid 20% ahead of the open after skyrocketing 229% on Monday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/longfin-stock-nearly-quintuples-after-buying-a-blockchain-company-2017-12-18) and 308% on Friday after news it's buying blockchain technology provider Ziddu.com.

Cars.com Inc.(CARS) could also be active after news late Monday that activist investor Starboard Value LP bought a 9.9% stake in the company (https://www.wsj.com/articles/activist-starboard-value-buys-9-9-stake-in-cars-com-1513636271).

What are other markets doing?

Stocks in Asia (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/australian-stocks-at-best-levels-in-a-decade-as-asia-pacific-region-posts-broad-gains-2017-12-18) closed mixed, while European markets (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-build-on-rally-ahead-of-german-ifo-report-2017-12-19) mostly traded higher.

The ICE U.S. dollar index slipped 0.2% to 93.532, building on a 0.3% loss from Monday.

Oil prices advanced 0.6%, while gold was nearly unchanged.

Bitcoin futures rose 0.5% to $19,200, adding to Monday's 6.7% advance.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 19, 2017 09:00 ET (14:00 GMT)