MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks On Track For Weekly Rise With Data Deluge On Deck

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Dow set to power to fresh records

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U.S. stock futures tilted higher on Friday, indicating weekly gains across the board and possibly a fresh record for the Dow average.

Traders were waiting for a pre-Christmas data dump ahead of the bell, which could help steer markets on the last trading day before the holidays.

What are markets doing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 30 points, or 0.1%, to 24,808, set to build on a 0.2% gain from Thursday. The blue-chip gauge in that session (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-seen-in-holding-pattern-as-investors-look-for-fresh-catalysts-after-tax-bill-2017-12-21) closed just 0.04% below its all-time close, so if the index holds its premarket gain it could rack up another record on Friday.

Futures for the S&P 500 index climbed 2.95 points, or 0.1%, to 2,690.75, while those for the Nasdaq-100 index added 5 points, or 0.1%, to 6,497.25.

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As of Thursday's close, all three major benchmarks were on track for weekly gains, with the Dow average up 0.5%, the S&P 500 higher by 0.3% and the Nasdaq Composite Index up by 0.4%.

What's driving the markets?

The gains this week have come after the House of Representatives and the Senate approved a sweeping tax reform package, cutting the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%, among other things. All there is left for the tax bill now is for President Donald Trump to sign it into law.

Expectations of the tax reform have boosted markets in recent weeks on hopes it will give U.S. companies a boost and speed up economic growth. However, Morgan Stanley recently warned that the official passage of the bill could represent a near-term top for market (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-the-stock-market-could-peak-the-day-trump-signs-the-tax-cut-bill-2017-12-18).

Meanwhile in Europe, Spanish stocks slumped after parliamentary elections in Catalonia handed a win to the separatist movement (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/spanish-stocks-slump-after-separatists-win-catalonia-election-2017-12-22), rekindling fears of the re-emergence of tensions in Spain.

What's on deck in economics?

Markets in the U.S. could also be driven by a spate of data Friday morning. At 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, reports on durable goods orders, core capital orders, personal income, consumer spending and core inflation, or the PCE deflator, for November will be released. New-home sales figures for November and a consumer sentiment reading for December are due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

What are strategists saying?

"Today investors are waiting for the inflation and consumer sentiment and especially the PCE deflator report which will be closely watched," said Konstantinos Anthis, researcher at ADS Securities.

"Last time we heard from the Fed, outgoing Chairwoman Janet Yellen made a special reference to low inflation and expressed her concern on whether the low pace of price growth has a lasting effect. As such, investors will pay close attention to today's PCE figures because a stubbornly low inflation could slow down Fed's tightening schedule for next year," he added.

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Nike Inc.(NKE) fell 2.3% in thin premarket trade after the athletic gear company late Thursday reported earnings that topped Wall Street estimates (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nike-shares-seek-direction-as-results-top-street-estimates-but-north-america-sales-dont-2017-12-21), but North American sales fell below consensus estimates.

Boeing Co.(BA) could also move after news the company is in takeover talks with Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer SA (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/boeing-in-takeover-talks-with-brazilian-rival-embraer-2017-12-21)(EMBR3.BR) .

What are other markets doing?

Stocks in Asia closed mostly higher, with Japan's Nikkei 225 index rising 0.2% to 22,902.76.

Oil prices dropped 0.5% to $58.06 a barrel, while gold was up 0.1% at $1.271.60 an ounce.

The ICE dollar index was up 0.1% at 93.379.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 22, 2017 05:35 ET (10:35 GMT)