US stock index futures point to a marginally higher open on Friday morning, leaving Wall Street on track for a somber end to the year.

Santa Claus? Janet Yellen? Whoever steps up to the plate has their work cut out, as it would require the biggest late December rally on record to turn US stocks positive for the year.

The backdrop of investors remain increasingly reluctant to ‘buy the dip’ and snap up stocks on pullbacks – keeping the S&P 500 on course for its biggest December decline since 1931 and its largest December quarter drop since 2008.

The task has been made even tougher, with stocks laying lower following Thursday’s session; pounded by yet another wave of selling as the threat of a government shutdown grows and compounds the list of worries that have unsettled investors in recent weeks.

The S&P 500 settled to close -1.63% lower, with Utilities, down -0.06%, being the S&P 500’s best performing sector; gains being further offset by declines in Energy (-2.77%), Consumer Discretionary (-2.24%), Telecom (-1.89%), Technology (-1.79%), Real Estate (-1.46%), Healthcare (-1.41%) and Financial (-0.89%) sectors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the session negative -1.95%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed out -1.45% lower from Wednesday’s close.

Monthly performance shows the S&P 500 negative, baring declines of -8.15%, the Dow Jones -8.39% and the Nasdaq -6.03% for the month of December.

All three major market indices remain positioned in correction territory, defined as a drop of 10% or more decline from their peak value.

On today’s data front, investors are likely to monitor the flurry of economic reports, including; Durable Goods and GDP figures at 8:30am EST, followed by Personal Income and Spending data for November at 10am ET.

In corporate data, Carmax (KMX) is expected to report its latest results before the opening bell.

TODAY’S TOP HEADLINES:

China: Chinese leaders promise tax cuts to boost flagging economic growth. (CNBC)
China’s top leaders have ended a vital economic meeting with a fiscal pledge to support economic growth next year.

Politics: James Mattis to Depart as Defense Chief Over Troop Withdrawals from Syria, Afghanistan. (The WSJ)
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he would resign at the end of February after President Trump ordered the drawdown of all troops from Syria and many from Afghanistan, because his views no longer “aligned” with the president’s, an abrupt departure of a military figure considered a stalwart of national security.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:
Today’s Economical Announcements

08:30AM – Cap Goods Ship Non Defense (MoM) (Previous: 0.3%)
08:30AM – Core Durable Goods (MoM) (Nov) (Previous: 0.2%)
08:30AM – Durable Goods Orders (MoM) (Nov) (Previous: -4.3%)
08:30AM – GDP (QoQ) (Q3) (Previous: 3.5%)
08:30AM – GDP Price Index (QoQ) (Q3) (Previous: 1.4%)
10:00AM – Core PCE Price Index (MoM) (Nov) (Previous: 0.1%)
10:00AM – Core PCE Price Index (YoY) (Nov)  (Previous: 1.8%)
10:00AM – Michigan Consumer Expectations (Dec) (Previous: 86.1)
10:00AM – Michigan Consumer Sentiment (Dec) (Previous: 97.5)
10:00AM – PCE Deflator (MoM) (Previous: 0.2%)
10:00AM – PCE Deflator (YoY) (Previous: 2.0%)
10:00AM – Personal Income (MoM) (Nov) (Previous: 0.5%)
10:00AM – Personal Spending (MoM) (Nov) (Previous: 0.6%)

STOCKS IN THE SPOTLIGHT:
Pre-Market Movers & News Related Stocks

Nike (NKE): [EARNINGS] Reported quarterly profit of 52 cents per share, 6 cents a share above estimates. Revenue beat forecasts.

Cintas (CTAS): [EARNINGS] Reported adjusted quarterly profit of $1.76 per share, 6 cents a share above estimates and also raised its fiscal 2019 guidance.

CarMax (KMX): [EARNINGS] Reported quarterly profit of $1.09 per share, 9 cents a share above estimates. Revenue missed forecasts.

Raytheon (RTN): [NEWS] The defense contractor won a $568 million Pentagon contract for modifications to a Patriot missile defense system it is building as part of a foreign military sale.

Zynga (ZNGA): [NEWS] Zynga is buying a majority stake in Finland’s Small Giant Games for about $700 million, in a move to bolster its mobile game lineup.

Lockheed Martin (LMT): [NEWS] Lockheed was awarded a $997 million Air Force contract for F-16 aircraft upgrades.

Altria (MO): [DOWNGRADE] Citi downgraded the tobacco producer to “sell” from “neutral,” saying Altria’s purchase of a 35 percent stake in Juul signals a lack of confidence in its core business.

Goldman Sachs (GS): [NEWS] Singapore has expanded its criminal probe over Malaysian investment fund 1MDB to include Goldman, according to Bloomberg.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), IBM (IBM): [NEWS] Both had their computer networks breached by China-backed hackers, according to a Reuters report.

Campbell Soup (CPB): [NEWS] Campbell named former Pinnacle Foods CEO Mark Clouse as its new chief executive officer.

MOMENTUM STOCKS:

GAINERS: –
LOSERS: CAG, OII, TWTR, CCL, CI, PEB, FDX, PM

TODAY’S IPOs:

None.