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Wall Street to Start 2009 Flat

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a largely flat open for Wall Street in the first day of the year after lodging the best year-end rally ever Wednesday.

Asian stocks closed mostly on a strong note but in light volumes, while European shares were higher.

"We're probably headed for a very slow day in term of volume," Peter Cardillo, chief economist, Avalon Partners, told CNBC.

But stocks will probably go higher after rallying in the last day of 2008.

President-elect Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will meet Monday to discuss a stimulus bill aimed at kick-starting the ailing U.S. economy, according to a Washington Post report.

Another sector that is waiting impatiently for details about the stimulus package is the steel industry, which is turning to the government for orders that, until the September collapse, had come from manufacturers and builders, the New York Times reported.

In the banking sector, two huge acquisitions in the banking sector have been completed following the biggest financial crisis to hit the United States since the 1930s.

Bank of America said Thursday it has completed its $19.4 billion all-stock purchase of Merrill Lynch, while Wells Fargo said it has completed its $12.7 billion all-stock purchase of Wachovia.

Fannie Mae believes that failed mortgage lender IndyMac has obligations to repurchase around $1 billion of home mortgages that failed to meet Fannie's standards, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

On the economic front, ISM manufacturing data for December will be released at 8:30am ET.

The unemployment report next week will be a crucial indicator for the markets, which will be preparing for "ugly economic numbers," Cardillo said.

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NDAQ
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