Wednesday December 20th


US futures posts strong gains as investors await further tax developments

U.S. stocks futures are pointing to a higher open Wednesday, as investors await the latest in overhauling the U.S. tax system. Futures rose ahead of the market open, after House Republicans approved sweeping amendments to the U.S. tax code Tuesday. However, markets remain in wait-and-see mode as members will have to vote on the final bill again on Wednesday, following news that lawmakers appeared to have violated the Byrd Rule, which is a Senate procedural measure. On Tuesday however, U.S. stocks closed in the red after technology stocks fell due to a drop in Apple shares. The uncertainty surrounding U.S. tax and the weakness seen on Wall Street in the previous session, added slight pressure to markets worldwide Wednesday. Switching focus to Wednesday's session, aside from tax, economic news will be of some importance to investors. In earnings, General Mills, BlackBerry, Winnebago, and Bed Bath & Beyond will be posting their latest figures during the day. Meanwhile, existing home sales data are due out at 10 a.m. ET, along with the routine mortgage applications at 7 a.m. ET.  Asian stocks were subdued in Wednesday trade, tracking the mixed performance on Wall Street overnight. The Nikkei 225 edged up 0.1 percent, or 23.72 points, to close at 22,891.72 as banks and trading houses rose. Meanwhile, South Korea's benchmark Kospi index ended 0.25 percent lower at 2,472.37 as gains in manufacturing names were offset losses in blue-chip names in other sectors. Markets in greater China traded slightly lower. The Hang Seng Index traded lower by 0.14 percent at 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN after gaining more than 200 points in the last session. Mainland indexes recorded moderate losses in a thinly-traded session, which saw telcos among the worst-performing sectors on the day. The Shanghai Composite lost 0.27 percent to close at 3,287.61 and the Shenzhen Composite edged down by 0.74 percent to end at 1,891.52. Oil prices inched up on Wednesday, supported by expectations of a fall in U.S. crude inventories and by the ongoing outage of the North Sea Forties pipeline system. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $57.71 a barrel at 0100 GMT, up 15 cents from their last settlement. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $63.86 a barrel, up 6 cents. Gold prices inched higher in quiet trade on Wednesday as the dollar held steady on expectations the U.S. government would pass the country's biggest tax overhaul in 30 years. Spot gold had risen 0.2 percent to $1,263.65 an ounce by 0347 GMT. U.S. gold futures were also up 0.2 percent, at $1,267 an ounce.