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Futures Drift as Big Year Winds Down

Stocks looks set to start the last day of 2009 flat to slightly higher, shaving a few points despite a drop in jobless claims filing that appeared greater than expected.

Futures held onto meager gains after the Labor Department said the number of workers filing new jobless claims last week dropped to 432,000, a move lower by 22,000 to the lowest level since July 2008.

Wall Street is limping to the finish of an otherwise successful year for stocks, with very little movement at all for the major averages over the past three sessions.

Though stocks will end 2009 with their best annual percentage gains since 2003, that hasn't fully erased the sting of losses stemming from the financial crisis, which is resulting in the S&P 500 posting its first losing decade in history. The more optimistic may choose to focus on gains since the March 9 bear-market low, led by a nearly 81 percent jump for the Nasdaq, with the Dow gaining 61 percent and the S&P 500 rising about 67 percent.

One more economic report is on the calendar before 2009 expires. The Labor Department is out with its report on first time claims for jobless benefits at 8:30 am New York time.

Economists are expecting claims to come in at 455,000, which would be a slight increase from last week's reading of 452,000. We'll also get the EIA's weekly reading on natural gas inventories at 10:30 am.

Dow component Pfizer could be a stock to watch today, with the FDA not yet completing a review of a more advanced form of the company's "Prevnar" vaccine for pneumonia and meningitis. A final decision had been expected Wednesday.

Time Warner Cable and News Corp. also continue their debate over carriage of News Corp.'s Fox-branded channels. If it isn't resolved, the Fox channels could disappear from Time Warner Cable systems. The dispute centers around News Corp. wanting $1 per subscriber in return for permission to carry those channels.

AIGlegal counsel Anastasia Kelly has resigned for reasons related to pay limits imposed by pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. Kelly had told the company a few weeks ago that she was prepared to resign over the issue.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

GMAC has confirmed Wednesday's widely reported story that the Treasury will infuse more money into the lender. GMAC will get another $3.8 billion, with the Treasury's stake increasing to 56 percent from 35 percent.

Crude oil is trading near $80 this morning, completing a year which will see its biggest yearly gain since 1999.

- Written by Peter Schacknow, Senior Producer, CNBC Breaking News Desk