REUTERS: U.S. stock index futures were muted in the last trading session of a tumultuous year on Thursday, as investors digested big market gains and hoped that more stimulus and coronavirus vaccines will drive a strong economic recovery in 2021.
Wall Street's main indexes surged to record highs this week in a stunning recovery since March when the COVID-19 triggered the steepest global recession in generations and left millions of Americans unemployed.
Unprecedented levels of central bank and government stimulus have helped the benchmark S&P 500 index climb almost 70per cent from its March low and put it on course for a more than 15per cent annual gain.
The Nasdaq, which has benefited from a surge in the valuation of tech mega-caps such as Alphabet Inc, Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc, Facebook Inc and Netflix Inc - is on course to record a 43per cent increase in 2020, its best yearly performance since 2009.
Countries across the globe are still fighting a rapid surge in cases, with the highly infectious COVID-19 variant originally discovered in Britain detected in California, a day after the first known U.S. case was documented in Colorado.
However, a favorable U.S. election outcome, large-scale vaccination campaigns and signs that a fiscal stimulus deal will be eventually reached in Washington helped Wall Street continue its rally.
At 07:36 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 19 points, or 0.06per cent, S&P 500 e-minis were down 1.25 points, or 0.03per cent, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 10.25 points, or 0.08per cent.
Trading volumes are expected to be light with many traders away on New Year's Eve.
Near-term expectations of bigger stimulus checks dimmed after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a quick vote to back President Donald Trump's call to increase COVID-19 relief checks to US$2,000 from US$600.
All eyes will be on two U.S. Senate races in Georgia next week that will determine control of the chamber and influence Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's ability to enact his agenda.
The U.S. Labor Department's weekly unemployment report is due at 08:30 a.m. ET, which is expected to show a rise in jobless claims, strengthening views of a slowing economic recovery.
(Reporting by Devik Jain and Supriya R in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)