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Wall Street aims for breakeven in 2015

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Traders will be on watch to see if U.S. stocks can cling to gains after the S&P 500 ended Wednesday just 0.2 percent higher on the year. Futures were relatively flat on the final day of trading in 2015. The average forecast among 14 strategists surveyed by CNBC sees the S&P ending 2016 at 2,213, a 6.8 percent gain. (CNBC)

Asian markets were mostly down on the day, but the Shanghai Composite ended the year up 9.4 percent, while the small cap-heavy Shenzhen Composite was 63.2 percent higher in the same period. Japan's Nikkei turned in a 9.3 percent gain over the last 12 months. (CNBC)

European stocks were broadly lower ahead of a shortened trading session. The FTSE will close early at 12:30 p.m. London time, with continental bourses including France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium to close at 1 p.m. London time. (CNBC)

The oil market is ending the year on another down note, with prices having fallen by a third in 2015. Crude futures stabilized early Thursday after U.S. government data released in the previous session showed a surprise 2.6-million-barrel build in U.S. crude stockpiles. (Reuters)


Officials in Paris and Brussels canceled New Year's fireworks displays amid heightened tension following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris carried out by Islamic militants, some of whom lived in Belgium. Cities around the world have increased security around large public New Year's celebrations. (USAToday)

ConocoPhillips (COP) and NuStar Energy (NS) are preparing to send off the first tanker of freely traded U.S. crude oil following the lifting of a 40-year-old export ban. The shipment may be off by the end of Thursday. (WSJ)

Puerto Rico will default on a portion of the nearly $1 billion in debt obligations due to its bondholders on Jan. 4. Top officials for the commonwealth have confirmed that it will not be able to make two out of the 13 total payments due Monday to bondholders. (CNBC)

The White House is preparing to impose new sanctions on international companies and individuals suspected of aiding Iran's ballistic missile program, the Wall Street Journal reported. U.N. sanctions monitors have said a missile tested by Iran in October is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, Reuters earlier reported. (WSJ/Reuters)

Microsoft (MSFT) announced it will notify users of its commercial software, including its email service Outlook.com, if and when it suspects they have been hacked by foreign governments. Microsoft earlier this month disclosed a cyber campaign aimed at China's Tibetan leaders and Uighur minorities after being pressed by Reuters. (Reuters)

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted a friend of one of the San Bernardino shooters on charges of conspiring to plan terror attacks. Prosecutors say there is no evidence Enrique Marquez Jr., 24, knew about the Dec. 2 attack, but he is accused of buying two guns used by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik in the assault. (NBC News)

Bill Cosby has been released on $1 million bail following his arrest on charges of sexual assault dating to an incident 12 years ago. The 78-year-old comedian now faces his first criminal trial related to a series of rape allegations that has destroyed his image. (AP)

Flood warnings have been issued for more than 12 million Americans as surging river levels in the Midwest and other regions have put buildings under water and threatened crops following intense rain storms that have left 24 dead. (Reuters)

BY THE NUMBERS

Key reports on the U.S. economy this morning begin with the Labor Department's weekly report on initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET. The Chicago PMI offers the latest read on Midwest manufacturing activity when it is released at 9:45 a.m. ET.

Baker Hughes is out with its weekly U.S. oil and gas rig count at 1 p.m. ET, one day early due to the New Year's Day holiday.


STOCKS TO WATCH

Weight Watchers' (WTW) stock surged on Wednesday after the company launched an advertising campaign starring Oprah Winfrey. The media icon bought a 10 percent stake in the company in October.

Chimerix (CMRX) stock jumped in after-hours trading after Steve Cohen's Point72 disclosed a 5.3-percent stake in the small-cap biotech. Chimerix lost about 80 percent of its value on Monday after its phase three trial of an antiviral drug failed.

AT&T (T) confirmed it will no longer offer two-year contracts or subsidies on handset purchases.

Lockheed Martin (LMT) has been awarded a multi-year contract worth $1.1 billion to provide 32 C-130J transporter planes to the U.S. Air Force.

WATERCOOLER

Among those who passed this year were leaders including three-time New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, executives like former Coca-Cola president Don Keough and former AIG CEO Robert Benmosche, and cultural icons Leonard Nimoy and Yogi Berra.

It was a year of bold culinary choices at the nation's restaurant chains. Americans sampled such outrageous offerings as Pizza Hut's crust composed of hot dog bites, pepperoni pizza fries at Carl's Jr. and Hardee's, and Taco Bell's biscuit taco.