US stocks: Futures higher ahead of jobless claims data, after Dow 18000 – MarketWatch

LONDON (MarketWatch) — Wall Street looks set for a higher open Wednesday, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at a shiny new record high, and with weekly updates on labor and oil due in the abbreviated Christmas Eve session.

Futures for the S&P 500 SPH5, +0.09% were up 1.8 points at 2,080.70, and those for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJH5, +0.04%  gained 15 points, or 0.1%, at 17,991. Nasdaq 100 futures NDH5, +0.13%  rose 5 points, or 0.1%, to 4,283.

Investors will wrap up the trading day early, with both the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq Stock Market closing at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. The markets will remain closed Thursday for Christmas Day, and will reopen Friday with normal hours.

But before everyone rushes home for the holiday, the Labor Department will release its jobless-claims report at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Economists polled by MarketWatch expect claims for state unemployment-insurance benefits will tick up to 290,000, from 289,000 in the prior week.

Recent employment data has indicated strengthening in the labor market, which, in turn, should support the consumer-driven U.S. economy. Third-quarter U.S. gross domestic product growth was revised up to a 5% rate, powered by consumer spending, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

Following the GDP reading, which marked the highest pace of growth in 11 years, U.S. stocks finished higher Tuesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.36%  closed above 18,000 for the first time, in the fifth fastest 1,000-point rise in the Dow’s history.

The Dow at 18,000 before the end of 2014 is “extremely encouraging”, considering the “January Effect” which is the theory that “markets will rally even more when we get in to 2015, as investors pile back in to the equity market,” said Neal Gilbert, senior market analyst, at, in a Tuesday note.

The Dow reaching 20,000 by February may be a stretch, but not entirely out of reach, said Gilbert.

“As bold as I’d like to get, the daily trend-line resistance indicates that 20,000 won’t be achieved until late [third quarter of 2015], so we may have a little time to wait before we start breaking out our Jules Verne-themed balloons,” he wrote.

Oil: At 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time, the Energy Information Administration is expected to report a drawdown of 2.4 million barrels from U.S. crude-oil inventories for the week ended Dec. 19, according to a Platts survey. If the EIA reports a decline in oil stocks, that would be in contrast to late Tuesday data from the American Petroleum Institute, which showed crude inventories rose 5.4 million barrels last week.

Oil prices, which have been volatile in recent weeks on oversupply concerns, moved lower on Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate crude futures for February delivery CLG5, -1.80%  fell more than 1%, below $57 a barrel. Brent crude futures LCOG5, -1.64%  also dropped more than 1%, to below $61 a barrel.

Stocks to watch: Surgical-implants maker Stryker Corp. SYK, +1.71% is preparing a bid for U.K.’s medical-devices maker Smith & Nephew PLC SN., +6.80% according to a Bloomberg report.

Shares of Cal-Maine Foods Inc. CALM, +0.64%   could see active trading after the company reported disappointing results for its fiscal second quarter on Tuesday.

Other markets: In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei Average NIK, +1.24%  rose 1.2%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, +0.07%  ended up a more modest 0.1%. European stock markets SXXP, -0.04%  were mixed ahead of the Christmas break. Gold futures GCG5, -0.11%  were down slightly, less than $1 an ounce.

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