31 de diciembre de 2014 / 12:32 / en 3 años

US STOCKS-Futures tick up as strong 2014 draws to a close

* Trading expected to be light in final day of the year

* Energy could be in focus as crude oil continues to weaken

* Investors looking to jobless claims data, pending home sales

* Futures up: Dow 8 pts, S&P 2.5 pts, Nasdaq 2.5 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Dec 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Wednesday, suggesting Wall Street would end a strong year with minor gains, though the seasonal trend of modest moves and low volume looked set to continue.

* While some traders are out on holiday and others are waiting until 2015 to make major position changes, energy shares will likely be in focus on an otherwise quiet day as crude oil prices around 2 percent.

* Oil prices have been pressured this year by weakening demand and a supply glut. Down about 46 percent for the year, oil prices are on track for their biggest annual decline since 2008, hovering around their lowest levels since May 2009.

* The S&P Energy index is the year’s worst-performing sector by far, down 9.3 percent. The only other sector in negative territory is telecom, down 0.7 percent. The year’s top performers are utilities, up 26.6 percent, followed by the jump of 24.5 percent in health care.

* The gain implied by futures would extend Wall Street’s recent upward bias; the S&P 500 has risen in seven of the past nine sessions, hitting a series of intraday and closing records. While the scale and speed of the rally pushed investors to take profits on Tuesday, the gains have come on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s commitment to be “patient” about raising interest rates and strong economic data - factors that remain in place.

* Investors are looking ahead to the latest read on weekly jobless claims, due at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). The claims are coming out a day earlier than usual because of the New Year’s Day holiday on Thursday when the stock market will be closed. They are seen rising by 10,000 to 290,000 in the latest week.

* After the market opens, there will be a read on pending home sales for November and the December Chicago Purchasing Managers Index. Home sales are seen up 0.5 percent while the Chicago PMI index is expected to dip modestly.

* For December, the Dow is up 0.9 percent, the S&P is up 0.6 percent and the Nasdaq is down 0.3 percent.

* For the fourth quarter, the Dow has gained 5.5 percent, the S&P has added 5.5 percent and the Nasdaq has jumped 6.3 percent. Both the S&P and Nasdaq are on track for their eighth straight quarterly gain, the longest for the S&P since 1998 and the longest for the Nasdaq since 1996.

* For the year, the Dow is up 8.5 percent in its sixth straight annual gain and the Nasdaq is up 14.4 percent. The S&P is up 12.6 percent. The best-performing component of the benchmark index in 2014 is Southwest Airlines with a gain of 123.8 percent; the worst is Transocean Ltd, down 62.2 percent.

Futures snapshot at 6:54:

* S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.5 points, or 0.12 percent, with 23,087 contracts changing hands.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 2.5 points, or 0.06 percent, in volume of 3,931 contracts.

* Dow e-minis were up 8 points, or 0.04 percent, with 4,196 contracts changing hands. (Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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