Friday December 23rd


US stock futures point to lower open ahead of holidays

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Friday as many traders are expected to be away from their desk for the Christmas holiday. There are some economic data released today, including new home sales and consumer sentiment both due at 10 a.m. ET. On Thursday, U.S. equities fell, as the Dow Jones industrial average failed to reach 20,000, a psychologically important level. Entering Friday, the blue-chips index was about 0.4 percent away from hitting the elusive mark. In oil markets, Brent crude was around $54.43 a barrel on Friday, down 1.13 percent, while U.S. crude was at $52.32 a barrel, down 1.19 percent. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx-600 index was around 0.02 percent lower on Friday morning. Asian shares were in the red on Friday with little Christmas cheer in thin holiday trade, after the Dow Jones index once again fell short of the 20,000 mark. In South Korea, the Kospi was flat at 2,035.90, but pharmaceutical shares rallied as the country battled its worst-ever case of bird flu. Hanmi Pharma jumped 4.56 percent and Daewoong Pharma rose 1.65 percent after 20 million birds, a quarter of the national poultry stock, were killed to contain the outbreak, Reuters said this week. Chinese shares were low-spirited: the Shanghai composite was 0.94 percent lower at 3,110 while the Shenzhen composite fell 1.1 percent. Coal producers were laggards, with Datong Coal down 1.75 percent and Shanxi Xishan Coal 3.57 percent lower, tracking losses in coal prices. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.3 percent, weighed down by financials; Hang Seng Bank and Bank of East Asia lost more than 1 percent each. Japanese markets were shut for the Emperor's birthday. Gold edged higher on Friday in thin pre-Christmas trade as the dollar retreated from this week's 14-year high, tempting some buyers to take advantage of a near 10-month low in prices after six straight weeks of decline. Gold has fallen more than $200 an ounce from its peak hit in the immediate aftermath of Donald Trump's U.S. presidential election victory on Nov. 8, as his win sparked a dollar rally and drove U.S. Treasury yields higher. It is down 14 percent this quarter, paring its gain for the year to 6.7 percent. Gold posted its biggest quarterly increase in 30 years between January and March. Spot gold was up 0.2 percent at $1,131.83 an ounce, off last week's low of $1,122.35, while U.S. gold futures for February delivery were also up 0.2 percent an ounce at $1,133.10.