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A bourse trader drinks champagne after the last trading day at Frankfurt's stock exchange in Frankfurt.Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

With an abbreviated trading day before the New Year break, this is more of a day of reckoning than an important trading day on its own. Still, the year looks set to end with gains, following gains in Asia and Europe, while futures activity points to modest gains in the United States as well.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.7 per cent in overnight trading, cementing its status as the world's top-performing developed market index in 2013, and no doubt raising its profile as a potential money-maker in 2014 as the country moves toward additional economic reforms. In Europe, stocks rose about 0.3 per cent. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average point to gains of less than 0.1 per cent.

However, investors could be waiting for the release of some important, market-moving economic news later in the morning. The S&P/Case Shiller home price indexes will shed light on October home price moves. Later comes the consumer confidence index for December, with economists expecting a rise to 76.2 from 70.4 previously.

In company moves, keep an eye on the U.S. energy sector after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. announced a deal to buy the oil transportation unit of Phillips 66, revealing a bigger interest in the business of oil transportation.

MARKETS:

Equities:

Futures: S&P 500 +0.05 per cent; Dow +0.02 per cent; Nasdaq –0.06 per cent; S&P/TSX 60 (Toronto) –0.14 per cent Hong Kong's Hang Seng +0.26 per cent Shanghai composite index +0.88 per cent Japan's Nikkei +0.69 per cent London's FTSE 100 +0.30 per cent Germany's DAX –0.39 per cent France's CAC 40 +0.29 per cent Commodities:

WTI crude oil (Nymex Feb) –0.47 per cent at $98.74 (U.S.) a barrel Gold (Comex Feb) –0.27 per cent at $1,200.80 (U.S.) an ounce Copper (Comex Mar) unchanged at $3.38 (U.S.) a pound Currencies:

Canadian dollar at 94.01 (U.S.), up slightly U.S. dollar index down 0.1 per cent at 80.08

Bonds:

U.S. 10-year Treasury yield 2.992 per cent, up 1.9 basis points

ECONOMIC INDICATORS:

(9 a.m. ET) The S&P Case-Shiller home price index for October is released in the U.S. The 20-city index is forecast to rise 1 per cent from September.

(10 a.m. ET) U.S. Conference Board releases consumer confidence index for December, forecast to rise to 76.8 from November's 70.4.

STOCKS TO WATCH:

Phillips 66 announced a deal to sell its Phillips Specialty Products to Berkshire Hathaway Inc. in a deal valued at $1.4-billion (U.S.)

THIS MORNING'S TOP INVESTING LINKS:

Warren Buffett is showing a big interest in oil transportation with his investment in the pipeline services unit of Phillips 66.

Big Blue was the big weight on the Dow Jones industrial average this year. Some investors like that.

John Hussman estimates the chances of a market crash. They're high.

The best-performing emerging market in Asia? Say hello to Vietnam.

Gold is making ugly headlines after suffering its worst annual decline in 32 years.

––– For instant headlines on breaking economic and corporate news in the premarket, follow Darcy Keith on Twitter at @eyeonequities.

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