Thursday December 21st


Wall Street set for a weak open as investors digest tax plan developments

U.S. stocks futures are pointing to a relatively flat open on Thursday, after a major bill was approved by Congress. On Wednesday, a major hurdle surrounding overhauling the U.S. tax code was conquered after House Republicans voted to approve tax reform, consequently meaning that the legislation can be sent to President Donald Trump's desk by Christmas. This comes after Republicans had to fix the bill on Tuesday afternoon, due to violations concerning the Byrd rule. The overhaul is expected to become law for 2018, with the bill set to cut corporation tax rates while temporarily trimming the tax burden for the majority of people. Even though the legislation was passed by a 224-201 margin in favor, U.S. stocks were fairly muted by the close on Wednesday — a move which was reflected by futures and international markets on Thursday morning. On the data front, the final reading on third-quarter GDP showed a gain of 3.2 percent. Weekly jobless claims totaled 245,000, above the expected 231,000. This economic batch will be then followed by the Federal Housing Finance Agency house price index, due out 9 a.m. ET. In earnings, Accenture, CarMax, Paychex and Nike are all set to report their latest figures during the day. Asian indexes lost ground on Thursday after U.S. stocks closed mostly flat following the passage of a comprehensive tax bill stateside. Greater China stocks, however, proved to be a bright spot in the region, with major indexes closing higher. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index shed 0.11 percent to close at 22,868.1 after the Bank of Japan's held monetary policy steady, a move widely expected by markets. In South Korea, the Kospi saw steeper losses, with the index declining 1.72 percent to end at 2,429.83. Markets in greater China bucked the downward trend in the region to notch gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 0.64 percent by 3:22 p.m. HK/SIN. Mainland markets reversed early losses to finish the session higher. The Shanghai Composite advanced 0.4 percent to end at 3,300.68 and the Shenzhen Composite tacked on 0.72 percent to close at 1,905.05. Oil prices were stable on Thursday after posting strong gains late in the previous session on the back of a drop in U.S. crude inventories. Another rise in U.S. oil production, which is close to breaking through 10 million barrels per day (bpd) is capping crude prices as it undermines efforts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and Russia to tighten the market through withholding output this year and next. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $58.05 a barrel at 0126 GMT, down 3 cents from their last settlement. Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, were at $64.58 a barrel, down 8 cents. Gold prices edged up on Thursday, trading within sight of a two-week high touched in the previous session, as the dollar held steady and Asian stocks slipped. Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,266.56 an ounce at 0104 GMT, after hitting its best since Dec. 6 at $1,267.81 in the previous session. U.S. gold futures were steady at $1,270 an ounce.