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Stock futures little changed ahead of home sales data

December 30, 2013

By Chuck Mikolajczak and Bernadette Baum

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Monday, in the wake of the best two-week advance for the S&P 500 in five months, and ahead of data on the housing market.

* The benchmark S&P 500 <.SPX> has risen 3.7 percent over the past two weeks, the index’s best fortnight since July, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s decision to begin winding down its stimulus measures on signs of economic improvement.

* The S&P has soared 29.1 percent this year and is on pace for its best yearly performance since 1997, powered largely by the central bank’s stimulus measures. The Dow <.DJI> has jumped 25.8 percent and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> 37.7 percent this year.

* Investors will eye pending home sales data for November from the National Association of Realtors at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 1.0 percent rise compared with a 0.6 percent fall in the previous month.

* S&P 500 futures rose 1 point and were slightly above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 14 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.25 point.

* Markets will close Wednesday for the New Year’s holiday, ahead of which trading is expected to be light, with many market participants out of the office. The thin volume could make for greater volatility.

* Shares of Crocs Inc <CROX.O> jumped 13.1 percent to $15.07 in light premarket trading after the shoemaker said its chief executive, John McCarvel, plans to retire in April, and that Blackstone Group LP <BX.N> is making a $200 million investment that will give the private equity firm a 13 percent stake in the company.

* Trina Solar <TSL.N> climbed 6.5 percent to $14 after the company signed an agreement to develop a solar power plant in China.

* European stocks edged higher, consolidating in holiday-thinned trade after two weeks of strong gains that have pulled markets to five-year highs. <.EU>

* Japanese shares ended a stellar year with a flourish, rising to a six-year peak, as the yen skidded to fresh lows for a third straight session.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Bernadette Baum)