Monday December 21th


Wall Street eyes triple-digit gains as Christmas countdown begins

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a sharply higher open on Monday, with Dow futures up over 100 points as traders start to wind down for the last few trading days before the Christmas holiday. Heading into the final two weeks of the year, limited liquidity is likely to heighten the severity of market moves, particularly during the holiday periods of Christmas and New Year's Eve, when most Western markets will be closed. Oil prices remained at the forefront of investors' minds as Brent crude oil prices fell to levels last seen in 2004 on Monday, dropping below the lows hit during the 2008 financial crisis on renewed worries over a global oil glut. Brent futures hit their lowest level since 2004 and were down about 1.6 percent at $36.28 a barrel as of 8:22 a.m., ET. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures for January delivery were down 33 cents at $34.40 per barrel and not far from last Friday's 2015 levels, the lowest in nearly seven years. The January contract expires Monday. On the data front, the only major release to watch Monday is the Chicago Fed National Activity Index, due at 8:30 a.m. ET. European markets reversed losses on Monday morning despite the price of brent oil hitting an 11-year low. The pan-European STOXX 600 traded around 0.4 percent higher. Asia's markets traded mixed on Monday, with many markets retracing initial weakness that had followed Wall Street's sharp losses on Friday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.4 percent in afternoon trade, retracing an early decline of as much as 1.8 percent, extending Friday's 1.9 percent drop. On Friday, the market took a wild ride after the Bank of Japan disappointed traders hoping for additional stimulus. In Hong Kong and China, shares traded higher after initially swinging between positive and negative territory. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 0.17 percent and the Shanghai Composite added 1.78 percent at the close. U.S. stocks closed sharply lower Friday as investors weighed low oil and economic data in the aftermath of the Federal Reserve's rate hike Wednesday. Options expiration also contributed to volatility. With Friday's late afternoon decline in stocks, the major U.S. averages wiped out gains for the week. Trade volume Friday was the second-highest of the year. Gold rose on Monday, as uncertainty about how fast the Federal Reserve will tighten interest rates next year weighed on the dollar. Stronger European shares and a renewed slump in crude oil prices, which hit levels unseen since 2004, curbed gold's ascent. The metal is usually seen as a hedge against oil-led inflation, while appetite for risk keeps demand for safer assets such as gold limited. Spot gold was up 0.15 percent at $1,067.51 an ounce, following a 1.4 percent gain on Friday.