Christmas Sales, Amazon, Nasdaq, Jobless Claims and Boxing Day - 5 Things You Must Know Thursday

U.S. stock futures rise and global shares edge higher in quiet, post-Christmas trading; markets in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia are closed Thursday for Boxing Day; holiday retail sales rise 3.4% and online sales jump 18.8%.
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1. -- Stock Futures Rise in Post-Christmas Trading

U.S. stock futures were rising Thursday and global shares edged higher in quiet, post-Christmas trading.

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 34 points, futures for the S&P 500 rose 5.05 points and Nasdaq futures were up 12.25 points. Markets in Europe, Hong Kong and Australia were closed Thursday.

U.S. stocks closed mixed on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq closing at a record high of 8,952.88, the index's ninth consecutive record close.

Stocks across the globe have moved higher over the past week after Donald Trump said the U.S. and China were close to signing a "phase one" trade agreement.

A spokesman for China's commerce ministry said Thursday that China was in close touch with the U.S. on signing the accord. He added that the world's two largest economies were still going through necessary procedures before the signing, Reuters reported.

2. -- Jobless Claims to Be Released Thursday

The economic calendar in the U.S. Thursday includes mortgage applications from the Mortgage Bankers' Association for the week ended Dec. 20 at 7 a.m. ET, weekly Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m., and the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet for the week ended Dec. 25 at 4:30 p.m.

3. -- Holiday Retail Sales Rise 3.4%

Overall holiday retail sales, excluding automobiles, rose 3.4% from a year earlier, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, with the gain driven largely by e-commerce sales.

Online sales from Nov. 1 to Christmas Eve rose 18.8%, while sales in stores rose just 1.2%. E-commerce sales made up 14.6% of total retail sales and reached a new high, according to Mastercard.

“E-commerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” said Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard.

“Due to a later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season, meeting consumers’ demand for the best deals across all channels and devices,” Sadove added.

4. -- Amazon Says Prime One-Day, Same-Day Deliveries Nearly Quadrupled

Amazon.com (AMZN) - Get Report said Thursday that during the holiday season the number of items it delivered with Prime free one-day and Prime free same-day delivery nearly quadrupled from a year earlier.

Amazon didn't provide specifics in a press release.

The online retailing giant said more customers tried Prime this holiday season than any previous year, noting that during one week more than 5 million new customers started Prime free trials or began paid memberships worldwide.

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5. -- What Is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is an official public holiday (or bank holiday) on Dec. 26, celebrated by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. 

There are several theories and potential origin stories that could lead to the name "Boxing Day," with the most commonly accepted explanation relating to the phrase "Christmas box." It comes from the tradition of wealthier members of society giving their servants some sort of gift on the day after Christmas.

A different explanation is that boxes would be open in a church for the season up to Christmas day where churchgoers could put monetary donations meant for the less fortunate. Then on Dec. 26, clergy would gift the money in the box to the poor.