Here are five things you must know for Monday, Dec. 31:
1. -- Stocks Rise on Signs of Progress in U.S.-China Trade Talks
U.S. stock futures were rising sharply on Monday, Dec. 31, the last trading day of 2018, after Donald Trump tweeted over the weekend that "big progress" was being made in trade talks between the U.S. and China.
Just had a long and very good call with President Xi of China. Deal is moving along very well. If made, it will be very comprehensive, covering all subjects, areas and points of dispute. Big progress being made!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 29, 2018
The two nations previously agreed to a temporary tariff truce at least until March, putting on hold the Trump administration's plans to raise tariffs of some $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10% to 25%.
Meanwhile, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying that "China stands ready to work with the United States to move forward the China-U.S. ties which are underpinned by coordination, cooperation and stability."
Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 253 points on Monday, futures for the S&P 500 gained 18 points, and Nasdaq futures were up 70.50 points.
Stocks on Friday closed mixed in a session marked by high volatility but ended the week higher for the first time in December. The Dow gained 2.8% last week, the S&P 500 rose 2.9% and the Nasdaq jumped 4%.
The economic calendar in the U.S. Monday includes the Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey for December at 10:30 a.m. ET.
2. -- Amazon Reportedly Planning Whole Foods Expansion
Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN - Get Report) reportedly plans to build and expand Whole Foods stores across the U.S. to put more customers within range of the e-commerce giant's two-hour delivery service.
The push would bring Whole Foods to more suburbs and other areas where the company is quickly adding customers since Amazon bought it in 2017 for about $13.5 billion, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Amazon and Whole Foods declined to comment for the Journal on new store construction or spending. In the Rocky Mountain region, one person familiar with the plans told the newspaper that Whole Foods employees have visited potential retail spaces in parts of Idaho, southern Utah and Wyoming, where Whole Foods doesn't have stores now.
Amazon was rising 2.2% in premarket trading on Monday.
3. -- Verizon and Walt Disney Reach Carriage Deal for Fios
Just after Christmas Day, Verizon had emailed Fios customers, saying that "Disney is currently proposing that Verizon pay hundreds of millions of dollars more for its programming, despite the fact that many of its key networks are experiencing declining viewership."
"The rising cost of programming is the biggest factor in higher TV bills and we are standing up to networks like Disney, refusing to accept these huge increases," Fios added.
Without a deal, ESPN and other programming would have been cut from Fios TV by 5 p.m. on Monday.
Verizon was rising 0.9% in premarket trading. Disney shares rose 2%.
4. -- Sears Gets Last-Minute Bid From Chairman
Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLDQ -- once famed for its iconic catalog and department stores -- narrowly averted liquidating when Eddie Lampert, the retailer's chairman, made a last-minute, $4.4 billion bid to buy and save the company.
Lampert made the bid through his hedge fund, ESL Investments. No other official bid had appeared by Friday.
ESL said the bid includes $1.3 billion in financing from three institutions. Reports said Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Royal Bank of Canada would assist with the financing.Transform Holdco LLC, an affiliate of ESL Investments, said it would purchase 425 Sears stores, offering employment to up to 50,000 of the chain's 68,000 current employees.
The deadline for deciding on "qualified" bidders is Jan. 4, and if a bid by ESL Investments passes that hurdle, an auction would be slated for Jan. 14.
Without an accepted bid from ESL Investments - the chain's largest creditor and shareholder - liquidators would break the company into pieces.
5. -- Tesla Names Larry Ellison to Its Board
Tesla Inc. (TSLA - Get Report) was up 1.3% in premarket trading Monday after rising sharply Friday following the company's naming of Larry Ellison and Kathleen-Wilson Thompson to its board.
Tesla closed with a gain of 5.61% to $333.87 on Friday.
Telsa said Ellison, the current executive chairman and chief technology officer of Oracle Corp. (ORCL - Get Report) , was added to the board as was Wilson-Thompson, the global head of human resources at Dow component Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. (WBA - Get Report) .