MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks On Track For Weekly Rise Ahead Of Christmas Holiday

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch, Ryan VlastelicaFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Dow set to power to fresh records

U.S. stock-index futures were pointed to a flat open on Friday, but would preserve a weekly rise, as the latest economic data came in roughly in line with expectations, failing to provide investors with much reason to adjust their views on the economy.

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Trading was expected to be quiet going into the Christmas holiday; markets will be closed on Monday, while most European markets will also be closed on Dec. 26.

Read: When do financial markets close for Christmas? (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/when-do-financial-markets-close-for-christmas-2017-12-20)

What are markets doing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 4 points to 24,777. Futures for the S&P 500 index climbed 0.95 points, or less than 0.1%, to 2,688.75, while those for the Nasdaq-100 index added 1 point to 6,493.

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%. All three indexes are near record levels, while both the Dow and the S&P are on track for their fifth straight weekly advance.

What's driving the markets?

The gains this week have in part 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. The iShares MSCI Spain Capped ETF (EWP), an exchange-traded fund that tracks Spain's equity market, fell 0.4% in premarket trading.

What's on deck in economics?

Orders for durable goods rose 1.3% in November (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/durable-goods-orders-rise-13-in-november-2017-12-22). While this represented an improvement after a 0.4% drop in the prior month, it was below the 2% growth that analysts had been expecting.

Separately, consumer spending rose 0.6% in November (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/consumer-spending-jumps-06-in-november-savings-rate-declines-2017-12-22), while personal income was up 0.3%.

New-home sales figures for November and a consumer sentiment reading for December are due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

What are strategists saying?

"The data was pretty much in line, albeit a bit soft on personal income and durable goods. There's a little disappointment about that, but this has been a great year and we're in a strong time, seasonally," said Wayne Kaufman, chief market analyst at Phoenix Financial Services.

Kaufman added that trading was likely to be quiet throughout the rest of the year, barring any unexpected news events. "Some managers may book some profits, but otherwise I don't think we'll drop down, nor rocket higher."

Related: U.S. stock trading volume hit a three-year low in 2017 amid near-absent volatility (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stock-trading-volume-hit-a-three-year-low-in-2017-amid-near-absent-volatility-2017-12-21)

Don't miss:Stock-market volatility could return in a big way in January: Goldman Sachs (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/stock-market-volatility-could-return-in-a-big-way-in-january-goldman-sachs-2017-12-21)

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.

Papa John's International Inc.(PZZA) could also move after a report in The Wall Street Journal late Thursday that the pizza chain's founder John Schnatter is stepping down as chief executive (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/papa-johns-founder-to-step-down-as-chief-executive-2017-12-21).

In the same vein, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Thursday he will step down as executive chairman (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/eric-schmidt-to-step-down-as-executive-chairman-of-alphabet-2017-12-21-17911113) of the search giant's parent company, Alphabet Inc.(GOOGL) in January.

What are other markets doing?

Bitcoin tumbled 16% on CoinDesk (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bitcoin-prices-slide-another-13-amid-fears-big-investors-are-cashing-out-2017-12-22), while January bitcoin futures slid 8.3% to $14,065. The world's largest digital currency has lost more than a third of its value since a recent peak hit on Dec. 17.

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 09:10 ET (14:10 GMT)