Friday December 16th


Wall Street set for higher open

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open Friday as traders continued to digest the Federal Reserve's decision to raise interest rates. With triple-witching expiration in the U.S., traders are also watching to see if the Dow Jones can crack the psychologically important 20,000 point level. The Dow Jones industrial average was set to open about 50 points higher after closing at 19,852.24 Thursday. Treasury yields were a touch lower after a recent surge to multi-year highs. The U.S. dollar index was steady around 103 after hitting a near 14-year high following the Fed meeting earlier in the week. The Federal Reserve on Wednesday raised its short-term target rate by 25 basis points in its second rate hike in a decade. The Fed also surprised markets with a forecast that showed it could raise rates three times next year, instead of two. Housing starts fell a more-than-expected 18.7 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.09 million units. Building permits declined 4.7 percent. U.S. crude oil futures traded slightly higher above $51 a barrel. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx-600 index was around 0.2 percent higher on Friday morning. Asian shares turned positive on Friday as currency swings captured attention with the yuan midpoint fixed at its lowest against the dollar since May 2008 and Japan stocks up slightly on recent yen weakness. Mainland Chinese shares were higher, the Shanghai composite finished up 0.2 percent or 6.35 points at 3,124.03 and the Shenzhen composite ended up 0.949 percent or 18.73 points at 1,991.63. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed up 0.66 percent or 127.36 points at 19,401.15, boosted by a weaker yen. A weaker yen usually supports exporters as it can increase earnings that are repatriated, particularly on sales made in dollars, and makes pricing more competitive abroad. Gold steadied on Friday but held near a 10-1/2 month low due to the higher dollar after the U.S. Federal Reserve this week signaled rates could be raised three times next year -- one more than forecast at its September meeting. Spot gold was up 0.5 percent at $1,134.46 an ounce at 7:02 a.m. EDT. The metal hit $1,122.35 on Thursday, its weakest since Feb. 2 and is down more than two percent so far this week, leaving it on track for its sixth consecutive weekly loss.