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Wall Street hopes Santa arrives early

IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat or modestly higher open on Thursday amid light trade as investors prepare for a shortened trading day for the Christmas holiday. Stocks end trading at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday and are closed for the Christmas holiday on Friday. Other markets including energy and bonds will also close early, shutting at 1:30 p.m. ET and 2 p.m. ET, respectively. (CNBC)

European stocks traded mixed on a day when a number of exchanges were closed or scheduled to close early. The pan-European STOXX 600 Index was trading about 0.1 percent lower. (CNBC)

The oil market rally showed signs of stalling in early trade following a third days of gains on Wednesday after the U.S. government reported an unexpectedly large decline in crude inventories and Baker Hughes said the country's rig count fell for the fifth week in six. (Reuters)


A handful of retailers including Eddie Bauer and Pacific Sunwear warned that holiday orders may not arrive in time for Christmas, blaming FedEx for the delays. FexEx said it is working around the clock to "accommodate additional unforeseen volume." (WSJ)

A pre-holiday survey from CareerBuilder suggests 1 in 2 American workers have shopped online while on the clock. But 42 percent of respondents said they would not spend more than one hour shopping at work this holiday season. (USAToday)

American, British, and French embassies in China issued warnings of threats to Westerners in Beijing as Chinese officials tightened security in an area of the city popular with tourists. Embassy officials said they did not have any further information to share. (USAToday)

A storm system sweeping across the southern United States and Midwest killed at least six people and left officials searching for missing people through the night. The spring-like storm sent tornadoes ripping through Indiana, Louisiana, and Mississippi. (AP)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is preparing to carry out raids aimed at deporting hundreds of families who have illegally entered the United States from Central America, the Washington Post reported. This would be the first effort on this scale to deport legions of Central Americans fleeing violence in the region. (WaPo)

The Illinois attorney general on Wednesday deemed daily fantasy sports to be illegal gambling under state law in another blow to embattled companies DraftKings and FanDuel, which are embroiled in a legal battle to continue operating in New York. (CNBC)

Palantir Technologies has raised $880 million, according to a filing from the SEC on Wednesday. The funding round values the ultra-secretive "big data" startup at $20 billion, making it the fourth most highly-valued tech startup in the world. (CNBC)

Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Holding led a $247.7 million investment in ride-hailing app Lyft, the investment firm of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said Wednesay. The Uber rival is seeking to raise $1 billion in its latest funding round. (Reuters)

High-ranking executives at Honda and Takata openly discussed concerns about defects that caused Takata's airbags to explode five years ago, internal documents unsealed on Wednesday showed. Separately, investigators linked another death to the defect, bringing the global total to nine. (NYT)

Syria is ready to take part in peace talks in Geneva, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said Thursday. This comes after the UN Security Council last Friday voted unanimously to approve a resolution endorsing a plan that includes a timeline for establishing a unity government and holding elections. (Reuters)

President Barack Obama's administration secretly pursued avenues of regime change in Syria beginning in 2011, including through a military coup, the Wall Street Journal reported. Those attempts yielded no result as the regime maintained cohesion. (WSJ)

BY THE NUMBERS

Weekly U.S. jobless claims are out at 8:30 a.m. ET and are expected to come in at 270,000.

There are no significant earnings out today and next week will see a similar drought.


STOCKS TO WATCH

Hyatt Hotels (H) disclosed on Wednesday its payment processing system had been infected with malware in an attack the company discovered on Nov. 30. A spokesperson did not say whether the attackers had stolen payment card information.

Nike's (NKE) 2-for-1 split of both Class A and Class B common shares takes effect today. The split will be in the form of a 100 percent stock dividend.

Pep Boys (PBY) said Carl Icahn was willing to pay as much as $1 billion in his effort to outbid Japanese tire maker Bridgestone for the service and automotive aftermarket company, Reuters reported. The billionaire investor is willing to pay 10 cents per share above any new offer from Bridgestone.

The two largest shareholders in Ferrari (RACE) have signed a pact that would essentially block unwanted bids for the Italian carmaker following its spinoff from Fiat Chrysler, the Wall Street Journal reported.

WATERCOOLER

The force is with toy retailers this year. "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" is helping to drive a nearly 11 percent increase in toy imports to the United States, a report by IHS Maritime & Trade found. (CNBC)

The Wall Street drama "The Big Short" opened in limited release last night. The-Numbers.com recently broke down the bankability of each star and found Brad Pitt accounts for 11 percent of the film's total score, the highest percentage of any cast member. (CNBC)