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Waiting for a rally
Strength overseas has futures pointing to strong start for stocks after four-session losing streak.
December 21, 2005: 8:51 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Stocks looked set for a strong start Wednesday after a four-day selloff following solid gains in overseas markets.

U.S. stock futures rose in early trading, pointing to a higher start on Wall Street. But that may not come to pass, as solid gains in futures Monday and Tuesday didn't push stocks much higher at the open.

Investors have been awaiting the traditional "Santa Claus" rally that typically takes the market higher in the last trading days of the year.

But some are worried that the market has already seen its best gains this year after the November rally.

The economy grew slightly less robustly in the third quarter than previously thought and prices picked up, the Commerce Department said, though the pace of expansion remained the strongest since the beginning of 2004.

Gross domestic product, or total output within U.S. borders, expanded at a 4.1 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, the government said in its final estimate of growth for the period.

Oil prices edged up ahead of the weekly U.S. fuel inventory report.

The February light crude futures contract for NYMEX gained 28 cents to $58.37 a barrel in electronic trading, while the February contract for Brent crude added 29 cents to $56.46.

Major markets in Asia closed higher Wednesday as Japan's Nikkei hit a five-year high and South Korea's Kospi climbed to record levels.

Major European markets also rose in morning trading, hitting their highest levels in 3-1/2 years.

Bond prices edged lower, lifting the yield on the 10-year Treasury to 4.47 percent from the 4.46 percent level reached late Tuesday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

The dollar lost ground against the euro and yen.

In corporate news, General Motors (Research) shares, which fell to an 18-year low Tuesday, fell another 4 percent in European trading on the after-hour news that shareholder Kirk Kerkorian had sold 12 million of his 56 million GM shares in order to take tax losses.

Seagate Technology (Research) said Wednesday it will buy rival computer disk-drive maker Maxtor (Research) for $1.9 billion in stock, a deal that would pay a premium of 60 percent for Maxtor shareholders based on Tuesday closing prices.

Electric utility Calpine (Research) filed for bankruptcy court protection, a move that was long anticipated despite opposition from its founder and former CEO.

Google (Research) shares increased in after-hours trading as the search engine and Time Warner (Research) confirmed details of the deal to have Google buy a 5 percent stake in America Online for $1 billion.

The move, first reported Friday, is seen as blocking Microsoft (Research) from making gains on Google in the paid search business. Microsoft and Time Warner shares were little changed in after-hours and European trading.

CNNMoney.com is a unit of Time Warner.

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