The Day Ahead: Sleepy Upside Action

 | Dec 23, 2011 | 8:08 AM EST
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In the Headlines

Wall Street futures moved higher on the last day of pre-holiday trading. Friday's optimism follows a market rally on Thursday spurred by better-than-expected economic data.

Today brings more economic news, in the form of housing, durable goods, and personal income and spending reports.

Typically, the last trading day before Christmas brings light volume. The week between holidays also tends to show light turnover, as many traders take time off.

Thursday's U.S. data not only boosted U.S. equities, but helped send global stocks higher on Friday. Advancers outpaced decliners by a wide margin on European bourses ahead of Wall Street's open this morning.

You don't hear much about Austria in the ongoing eurozone debt discussions. However, it made news this morning, as Moody's maintained its AAA rating on the small nation.

The euro was up vs. the greenback before Wall Street's open.

In Asia, most indices ended the week higher. Even the Shanghai Composite, which closed lower every other day this week, managed to end in positive territory. Japan's Nikkei was shuttered for a holiday.

Economic Docket

At 8:30 a.m. EST, the Commerce Department releases data on durable goods for November. Economists expect an increase of 2.2%. The headline number showed a drop of 0.5% in October.

Commerce has still more data at 8:30, reporting personal income and spending for November. Analysts see income rising by 0.2%, but spending outpacing that gain, with an increase of 0.3%. Increased car buying is factored into that spending estimate, as are bargain-driven holiday purchases.

It's a busy day for the Commerce Department's various units. Its Census Department releases the final closely watched econ report of the day at 10 a.m. New-home sales are expected to come in at an annualized rate of 315,000 units. That would be a month-over-month rise, but a year-over-year decline.

Crude oil was up $0.32 per barrel in early trade, to $99.85.

Gold, meanwhile, shed $0.30, to 1,610.30 per ounce.

There are no significant earnings reports due out today.

Company News

In company news, the FCC finally gave AT&T (T) the go-ahead for a deal: Regulators approved the telecom's $1.9 billion purchase of unused wireless spectrum from Qualcomm (QCOM). It will add capacity to A&T's 4G network, which has been rolling out across the country.

Market Movers

Premarket trade was lighter than usual Friday morning. An early mover was DJIA component IBM (IBM), advancing $0.90, 0.49%, to $182.94. Shares gapped down Wednesday in heavy volume, on concerns that Oracle's (ORCL) quarterly earnings and revenue miss signaled more trouble for big tech.

Fellow big-cap Deere (DE), which is up 5.6% so far this week, was another premarket gainer. Shares climbed $0.24, 0.31%, to $78 ahead of the bell. Year-to-date, Deere is down 6.37%.

Apple (AAPL) rose $1.10, 0.28%, to $399.65 in early trade. The stock made gains despite news that its iPhone was losing market share in Europe. Apple shares had fallen below their 50-day average earlier this month but have retaken that key trend line this week, albeit in light trading volume.

Analyst Actions

Analysts who issue upgrades and downgrades were apparently sleeping in this morning, because there were far fewer actions than usual.

Talisman Energy (TLM), a Canada-based oil and liquid natural gas explorer and producer, was upgraded to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna. Shares are down 45.34% year-to-date, closing Thursday at $12.13.

The company has been growing earnings at a fast pace in the past two quarters, and consensus estimates call for a rise of 57% in 2012, to $3.25 per share.

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