Dow Futures, Carlos Ghosn, Tencent Music, Iraqi Protests and Times Square New Year's Eve - 5 Things You Must Know Before Markets Open Tuesday

Wall Street futures suggest a modestly weaker end to the best year for U.S. stocks in more than two decades; ousted Nissan Carlos Ghosn fees house arrest in Japan; Tencent Music buys $3.4 billion stake in Universal Music; Protesters storm U.S. embassy in Iraq, Times Square prepares for New Year's Eve celebrations.
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1. -- Stock Futures Rise on Final Trading Day of 2019 Amid U.S.-China trade signing hopes

U.S. stock futures are edging lower amid reports that China could send a delegation to Washington later this week in order to sign the phase one trade agreement between with world's two biggest economies

Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average suggest a 29 point slip for the 30-stock benchmark, which has gained 22% so far this year, while those linked to the S&P 500 -- the broadest measure of U.S. stocks -- indicate a 2.7 point pullback that trim the index's 28.45% advance since the start of the year.

White House trade adviser Peter Navvaro told Fox News Monday that the pact, which would trigger tariff rollbacks by the U.S. and increased agricultural purchase from China, could be signed as early as this week in Washington, but declined to confirm a South China Morning Post report that formal invitations had been issued and accepted.

The opacity surrounding the text of the deal, reached earlier this month after more than a year of negotiations and tit-for-tat tariffs, has kept some markets wary over the final days of the trading year, but with investors in the U.S. sitting on some of the strongest gains in more than two decades, profit-taking could clip pre-market gains in what is expected to be a quiet session prior to Wednesday's New Year's Day holiday.

2. -- Ghosn Gone; Indicted Nissan Boss Flees Japan Ahead of Corruption Trial

Carlos Ghosn, the former head of Renault-Nissan facing corruption and financial misconduct charges in Japan, has fled to Lebanon just months before he was due to stand trial in Tokyo.

Ghosn, who was arrested late last year and held under strict bail conditions set by the Tokyo District Court, managed to leave Japan despite having surrendered his passports to authorities and submitted to intense monitoring by police.

He arrived in Lebanon -- where he has strong political and business ties -- early Tuesday, claiming he would not be "held hostage" by Japan's "rigged justice system" .

"I have not fled justice - I have escaped injustice and political persecution. I can now finally communicate freely with the media, and look forward to starting next week," the 65-year-old Ghosn said in a brief statement.

3. -- Tencent Feels the Beat With $3.4 Billion Universal Music Download

 China's Tencent Holdings has lead a consortium of investors into a deal that will see them buy 10% of Universal Music Group, the world's biggest music company, for around $3.4 billion.

The stake sale values Universal -- which is controlled by France's Vivendi SA media group -- at around $34 billion, the companies said, and gives the China-based Tencent a chance to bring music from artists such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and the Beatles to streaming audiences in its domestic market of more than 450 million online users. 

4. --  Iran-backed Protesters in Iraq Storm U.S. Embassy in Baghdad

A group of Iraqi Shiite Muslims threw rocks and missiles at the gates of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad Tuesday before tearing down the main gate and entering the compound, according to multiple media reports.

The protesters, thought to be supported by Iran-backed militia, were reacting to U.S. airstrikes earlier this week that killed 25 Kataib Hezbollah fighters following the death of a U.S. civilian contractor in Iraq last week.

Security forces fired teargas at the protesters, while non-essential staff at the embassy were evacuated by officials 

5. -- Times Square Prepares for New Year's Eve Celebrations as Decade Comes to a Close

An estimated 1.5 million people will gather in mid-town Manhattan Tuesday to watch the iconic ball from its flagpole atop One Times Square later today in what police are describing as 'the safest place on earth.

John Miller, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism, said security efforts will ensure the safety of revelers celebrating New Year's Eve in the city's tourist district, with 65 security pens overseen by more than 1,000 security cameras,  dozens of drones equipped with thermal-imaging and hundreds of uniformed police officers ... but no public washrooms.

Rapper Post Malone, South Korean boy-band BTS and Canadian rocker Alanis Morissette are set to headline the gala event, which will be televised as 'Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest' starting at 8pm Eastern Time on ABC.