Wall Street prepared to end a dreadful year with moderate moves Wednesday. Stock futures signaled a mixed open as investors awaited a weekly government report on unemployment claims.
Trading is expected to proceed quietly as most investors have closed their books on a punishing year for global markets. The Dow Jones industrials begins the final session of 2008 down 35 percent for the year, while broader indexes are down about 40 percent. It marks the worst year for the Dow since 1931, and for the Standard & Poor's 500 and Nasdaq composite indexes since their inception.
Nothing that emerges Wednesday will erase the enormous losses incurred in the past 12 months but investors would nonetheless like to continue sizable gains made Tuesday when financial shares led stocks higher.
Wall Street expects the government will report that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits declined last week but remains high. The Labor Department's report on initial jobless benefit claims is expected to drop to a seasonally adjusted level of 550,000, down from the previous week's 586,000, according to a survey of economists by Thomson Reuters.
For weeks, the number of people receiving benefits as a proportion of the work force has been at the highest level since August 1992, when the economy was also in recession.
The report is due at 8:30 a.m. EST.
Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 27, or 0.31 percent, to 8,667. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 5.40, or 0.61 percent, to 893.60, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 4.00, or 0.33 percent, to 1,202.00.
On Tuesday, stocks rose as investors applauded the government's decision to extend $5 billion to General Motors Corp.'s troubled financing arm, GMAC Financial Services LLC. Major stock indexes rose more than 2 percent in light trading, including the Dow, which added 185 points. Light volume can skew market moves.
Bond price fell Wednesday. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 2.09 percent from 2.06 percent late Tuesday. The yield on the three-month T-bill, considered one of the safest investments, rose to 0.07 percent from 0.06 percent Tuesday.
The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Light, sweet crude fell $1.65 to $37.38 a barrel in premarket electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.31 percent and France's CAC-40 rose 1.33 percent. Markets in Japan and Germany were closed for holidays.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)