Stock futures tick lower; S&P 500 at closing record

December 30
8:59 AM 2014

U.S. stock index futures were slightly lower on Tuesday, suggesting the market's recent trend of slight moves and low volume would continue in the next-to-last trading day of the year.

Equities have been trending to the upside, buoyed by strong economic data and the U.S. Federal Reserve's commitment to be "patient" about raising interest rates. After the S&P 500 gained nearly 6 percent over the prior eight sessions, it notched its 53rd record close of the year on Monday, while the Dow just missed extending its streak of positive sessions to eight.

The speed and scale of the rally could cap further upside, especially in a holiday week, when many traders are out. Volume was expected to remain light, which could exacerbate volatility. The stock market will be closed on Thursday for the New Year's holiday.

A pair of data reports could drive trading. A measure of consumer confidence, which will be released at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT), is seen rising to 93 in December from the previous reading of 88.7. Investors will also pay attention to CaseShiller data on home prices, released at 9 a.m. EST. Prices are seen up 0.4 percent in October.

While overall trading has been light, there has been heavy volatility in both thebiotechnology and energy sectors. The trend could continue on Tuesday, with Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O) one of the most active names premarket. The stock was down 0.3 percent at $97.05.

Crude oil CLc1 fell 0.8 percent, building on losses of about 2 percent in each of the three previous sessions. While the decline is viewed as positive for consumers, it has sharply pressured the energy sector.

Civeo Corp (CVEO.N), which provides temporary housing for oilfield workers and miners, said late Monday it slashed its workforce and forecast revenue could fall by one-third as slumping crude prices force oil producers to cut costs. Civeo stock fell 37 percent to $5.24 in heavy premarket trading.

For the month, the Dow is up 1.2 percent, the S&P is up 1.1 percent and the Nasdaq is up 0.3 percent. For the fourth quarter, the Dow has gained 5.8 percent, the S&P has added 6 percent and the Nasdaq has jumped 7 percent.

Both the S&P and Nasdaq were on track for their eighth straight quarterly gain, the longest for the S&P since 1998 and the longest for the Nasdaq since 1996.

For 2014, the S&P is up 13 percent and the Nasdaq is up 15 percent, on track for their third straight annual gain. The Dow is up 8.8 percent and aiming for its sixth straight positive year. Utilities .SPLRCU are the strongest sector of the year, up almost 30 percent, while the energy sector .SPNY is the weakest, down 8.7 percent.

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