Friday December 18th


Futures off session lows; Street eyes oil, options expiration

U.S. stock index futures indicated a lower open on Friday as traders eyed oil prices and looked to the final quadruple witching Friday of the year. Dow futures traded about 30 points lower, after briefly falling 100 points. Sector ETFs for energy, financials and utilities were all more than 1 percent lower in pre-market trade. Quadruple "witching" expiration is the quarterly expiration of stock and index options and stock and index futures, and stocks could trade with both high volatility and high volume on Friday. Friday "is going to be a day in of itself because it's a big options expiration day," Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth, said as selling accelerated into the close Thursday. U.S. stocks closed near session lows Thursday, breaking a three-day win streak with losses of more than 1 percent each as investors eyed oil prices and economic data, after the Federal Reserve on Wednesday made the widely expected move of raising rates. In Asia the Shanghai Composite closed flat, while Japan's Nikkei finished 1.9 percent lower. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index edged lower on Friday morning. On the data front, the Markit Services PMI is due at 9:45 a.m. ET. On the earnings front, CarMax, Carnival, Darden Restaurants, Lennar and BlackBerry were among those due to report before the bell. Oil fell on Friday as bearish sentiment driven by oversupply rattled the market and was set to lead prices to a third straight weekly drop, the longest losing streak in four months. Global benchmark Brent crude traded down 51 cents at $36.55 a barrel. U.S. crude futures fell to a near seven-year low of $34.41 a barrel but later recovered to $34.54, down 41 cents on Thursday's close. Gold edged higher on Friday, recovering from its biggest daily loss in five months as stocks and the dollar retreated, but remained near multi-year lows after the U.S. Federal Reserve lifted interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. The metal has recovered some lost ground after bottoming out on Thursday at $1,047.25 an ounce, within a few dollars of a near six-year low reached on Dec. 3. Spot gold was up 0.49 percent at $1,056.56 an ounce, while U.S. gold futures for February delivery were up $6 an ounce at $1,055.50.