US equity futures point to an upbeat final trading session of 2018 with investors drawing inspiration from growing optimism surrounding US-China trade talks; President Donald Trump announced, Saturday, that he had a “very good call” with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss trade, claiming that “big progress” was being made on this front.

This follows suit to Friday’s wash-out session which saw shares positioned not too far from where trading had begun; but only after a volatile day of trading which had capped one of the wildest weeks on Wall Street in recent years; reflecting volatility that many analysts increasingly predict will persist into the new year.

The benchmark S&P 500 index closed negative, -0.13%, having failed to add to the gains from two consecutive late-afternoon rallies. Declines were led by a retreat in Energy (-0.77%) which had been offset by minor advances in Real Estate (+0.30%) and Utility (+0.25%) stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended modestly lower, down -0.34%, while the Nasdaq Composite eked out a break-even -0.05% move.

The recent post-‘Grinchmas’ rally has cut the year-to-date loss of the S&P 500 by almost half, the index now down -7%, while still remaining on track to be the worst year for the benchmark since the financial crisis in 2008.

On today’s data front investors are set to largely remain attuned to US-China trade developments while awaiting the recent Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey data at 10:30am ET.

TODAY’S TOP HEADLINES:

Trade & China: Trump Hails ‘Big Progress’ Towards China Trade Deal. (Bloomberg)
President Donald Trump reported “big progress” in trade talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, providing an optimistic start to what could be a make-or-break year for ties between the world’s two largest economies.
The two presidents spoke at length by telephone Saturday, with each expressing satisfaction with trade talks initiated after their meeting earlier this month in Argentina. Trump said in a tweet that negotiations were “moving along very well” toward a comprehensive deal, while Chinese state media said Xi believed both sides wanted “stable progress.”

China: China’s December manufacturing activity contracts even more than expected. (CNBC)
Activity in China’s manufacturing sector contracted for the first time in more than two years in the month of December amid a domestic economic slowdown and Beijing’s ongoing trade dispute with the US.

ECONOMIC CALENDAR:
Today’s Economical Announcements

10:00AM – 3-Month Bill Auction (Previous: 2.415%)
10:00AM – 6-Month Bill Auction (Previous: 2.480%)
10:30AM – Dallas Fed Mfg Business Index (Dec) (Previous: 17.6)

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

Canada Goose (GOOS): [NEWS] Opened a new Beijing store, Friday, its first in mainland China.

Camping World (CWH): [NEWS] President Roger Nuttall resigned on December 21, effective immediately.

Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG): [NEWS] Could face charges if investigators find that various deadly wildfires over the past two years were caused by reckless operation of power equipment.

Amazon.com (AMZN): [NEWS] Is planning a significant expansion of its Whole Foods grocery stores, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Alibaba (BABA): [NEWS] Will pay $75 million to settle a California class action lawsuit, according to an SEC filing.

Apple (AAPL), Alphabet (GOOGL): [NEWS] Apple and Alphabet’s Google unit could be threatened by a new app store from Fortnite creator Epic, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Deutsche Bank (DB): [NEWS] Chairman Paul Achleitner told a German newspaper that the bank is strong and that its turnaround strategy is working, adding that there is no need for either state aid or a merger.

Verizon (VZ), Walt Disney (DIS): [NEWS] Both reached a distribution agreement ahead of a Monday deadline, meaning that Verizon FiOS customers will continue to receive Disney-owned channels like ESPN.

Tribune Publishing (TPCO): [NEWS] Was hit by a cyberattack over the weekend that caused printing and delivery disruptions for newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun.

Aflac (AFL): [NEWS] Making a $20 million minority equity investment in Singapore-based life insurance company Singapore Life.

MOMENTUM STOCKS:

GAINERS: –
LOSERS: –
TODAY’S IPOs:

None.

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