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Dow makes yet another push for elusive 20,000 milestone

IN THE NEWS TODAY

Though U.S. stocks are coming off a second-straight day of gains, with futures pointing to modest gains at the open, the Dow's drive for the 20,000 mark remains elusive. The benchmark average came within about 20 points Tuesday, but finished 55 points shy. The Nasdaq, however, did make some history by posting another record closing high and is on track for its biggest monthly gain since July. (CNBC)

Oil prices ticked down today as investors took a wait-and-see approach to how OPEC and non-OPEC output cuts pan out in the new year. (Reuters)

The dollar approached a 10½-month high against the yen today, following strong U.S. consumer confidence data that reinforced the Federal Reserve's slightly more hawkish outlook for the new year. (Reuters)

Qualcomm was fined $854 million by South Korea's antitrust commission for what the regulator called unfair business practices tied to patent licensing and chip sales. The U.S. chipmaker plans to challenge the fine in court. (Reuters)

The Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday approved health-care giant Abbott Laboratories' $25 billion acquisition of medical device maker St. Jude Medical. (Reuters)

Toshiba shares plunged 20 percent in Asian trading today after the chips-to-construction company said it might incur a multibillion dollar charge on a U.S. nuclear power business it bought in 2015. The stock's dip drove it to the Tokyo exchange's downward limit. (Reuters)

The U.S. government charged three Chinese traders with hacking into the computer systems of two prominent U.S. law firms for nonpublic information about mergers and acquisitions. The hackers allegedly earned more than $4 million illegal profits from the hack. (WSJ)

Delta Air Lines on Tuesday canceled a $4 billion order for 18 Boeing-787 Dreamliners. Delta did not give a specific reason for canceling the order, which it inherited from its merger with Northwest Airlines. (Reuters)

President-elect Donald Trump took to Twitter again to tout positive consumer confidence results. "The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index for December surged nearly four points to 113.7, THE HIGHEST LEVEL IN MORE THAN 15 YEARS! Thanks Donald!" (Washington Times)

The president-elect also made several appointments focused on national security and cyberdefense. Ex-George W. Bush aide Thomas Bossert will be a homeland security and counterterrorism advisor, while Jason D. Greenblatt will help run global negotiations. (CNBC)

December's final days saw a jump in consumer spending, offsetting a slower beginning to the holiday season and putting many retailers on track to beat sales forecasts, industry research groups said Tuesday. (Reuters)

More and more Americans are retiring outside of the United States, according to the Social Security Administration. The number increased 17 percent from 2010 to 2015, and about 400,000 American retirees are now living outside the country. (AP)

BY THE NUMBERS

The lone economic report on today's calendar comes from the National Association of Realtors, with November pending home sales due at 10 a.m. ET. Consensus forecasts call for a 0.4 percent increase in home sale contracts signed but not yet closed, following a 0.1 percent rise in October.

The Mortgage Bankers Association delayed its weekly report on mortgage applications until next Wednesday. The usual Wednesday release of oil and gasoline inventories is delayed until Thursday due to the holidays.

There are no earnings reports of note due today.


STOCKS TO WATCH

Nasdaq (NDAQ) and Bats Global Markets (BATS) are successfully persuading ETFs to defect from the New York Stock Exchange's Arca Platform. Reports show more than 30 ETFs have left the NYSE this month for its rivals, although NYSE Arca, owned by Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), is still the industry leader.

Fred's (FRED) is reportedly under scrutiny by federal regulators, who are unsure the discount store operator will be able to handle its increased size after striking a deal to buy 865 Rite Aid (RAD) stores.

GNC Holdings (GNC) will close all 4,400 U.S. stores today to overhaul the nutritional products retailer's pricing system.

Retailers including Macy's (M), Target (TGT), Wal-mart (WMT), Amazon.com (AMZN), Nordstrom (JWN) and others will be on watch today, with analysts saying a late December surge will likely help sales beat forecasts. That follows a slower start to the holiday season, which saw sales over the Thanksgiving weekend fall 3.5 percent from a year earlier, according to the National Retail Federation.

Knighthead Capital disclosed a 6.4 percent stake in alternative energy company TerraForm Global (GLBL) in an SEC filing.


WATERCOOLER

Carrie Fisher's death on Tuesday at age 60 didn't just sadden the "Star Wars" fanverse. It created a dilemma for Walt Disney studios over how to approach Fisher's legendary character, Princess Leia, in future films. (CNBC)

From playing Black Widow in "Captain America: Civil War" to a cheery bit part in the Coen Brothers' "Hail Caesar," Scarlett Johansson had a wide-ranging year in Hollywood. That's why she's 2016's top-grossing actor, raking in $1.2 billion at the box office. (Forbes)