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Stock Futures Waver as Stocks Head for a Mixed Year


NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were rising moderately Friday as investors anticipated a quiet day of market activity in the final trading session of the year.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were unchanged 12,217. The index rallied by 1.1% on Thursday, bringing its year-to-date gain to 6%.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 1 points, or 0.4 points above fair value, at 1258. The index, which also gained 1.1% yesterday, is in the green just barely for the year. Futures for the Nasdaq were also unchanged at 2277.

    

Investors are anticipating a quiet last session as many money managers have already checked out, having closed their books for the year. No major U.S. economic releases expected today. After the close, markets will remain shut on Jan. 2 in observance of the New Year's.

On Friday, Germany's DAX was climbing 1.34% while London's FTSE was down 0.27%. Japan's Nikkei Average settled 0.67% higher and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.2%.

Lukewarm economic data and declines in Italian bond interest rates helped stocks resume the Santa Claus rally on Thursday. However, there has been little buying and selling conviction.

"There's not a great deal to take away from the last few weeks. The price action doesn't have much action behind it. It's been low liquidity," said Ian Lyngen, bond strategist with CRT Group. The next major trading event investors are anticipating is next Friday's nonfarm payroll report.

The dollar index was down 0.01%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 1/32 diluting the yield to 1.895%. The bond market is scheduled to close at 2 p.m.

February oil futures were up 11 cents at $99.76 a barrel. In other commodities, February gold futures were up $30.60 to $1570.50 an ounce.

In corporate news, Sears Holdings (SHLD) could be in for another ugly session on Friday after Fitch Ratings cut its long-term credit rating on the struggling retailer to 'CCC' from 'B' and kept its outlook negative. The downgrade follows news on Tuesday that Sears plans to close up to 120 of its stores following a dismal holiday selling season. Shares were down 0.5% to $32.74 before the open.

The New York Stock Exchange is waving bye-bye to shares of AMR (AMR), the parent company of American Airlines. The Big Board is suspending trading in the company's common stock and certain debt issues as of Jan. 5 with plans to begin delisting procedures because the shares aren't meeting the minimum bid requirement. The carrier, which sought bankruptcy protection in late November, expects trading to move to the Pink Sheets following the delisting. AMR, down more than 93% in 2011, was last losing 36.8% to 33 cents a share.

Dow component Verizon (VZ) could be the subject of consumer ire on Friday as the company reportedly plans to start charging customers $2 per transaction to make one-time bill payments online or over the phone. Share were down 0.1% to $40.01.

Morton's Restaurant Group (MRT) is also in the spotlight as investor Tilman J. Fertitta announced the commencement of its cash tender offer to acquire the steakhouse chain's stock at $6.90 per share. The stock closed Thursday at $6.85. Feritta owns a little less than a 5% stake in the company, according to data from Thomson Reuters. Morton's agreed to be acquired by Feritta on Dec. 16 with an expected closing for the transaction seen in February. The per share consideration represents a premium of more than 30% to the stock's closing price of $5.16 on Dec. 15.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York.

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