NEW YORK (CNNfn) - As the world begins to celebrate the arrival of 2000, Wall Street will have one more half-day to touch up its books for quarter- and year-end, and to ensure that all systems are go for the much ballyhooed Y2K date change.|
Early indications suggest U.S. stocks will open flat to slightly lower in what is expected to be a very light trading session. All U.S. financial markets will close at 1 p.m. ET Friday to observe the New Year.
S&P futures on the Globex trading system were down 2.10 points at 1478.70. That's 0.69 points below fair value for the futures -- a formula taking into account interest and dividend effects -- which was estimated at 1479.39. Typically, one point of difference between the futures index and fair value equals about eight points on the Dow Jones industrial average as trading opens.
U.S. stocks ended on a muted note Thursday, erasing the gains that dominated the day until the close.
The Nasdaq composite index, up as much as 49, retreated 4.59 points to 4,036.87. The index closed above the 4,000 mark Wednesday for the first time in its 28-year history. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 31.80 to 11,452.86, while the S&P 500 index advanced 1.01 to 1,464.47, extending Wednesday’s record performance.
Markets outside the U.S. took their cue from Wall Street’s Wednesday rally to post phenomenal year-end gains. Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei Stock average achieved its highest close for the year and Europe's three largest equity markets - London, Frankfurt and Paris -- ended the 1990s with record finishes. The markets are closed Friday.
In the Treasury market, the 30-year benchmark bond was unchanged with a yield of 6.42 percent; both the euro and the yen were little changed against the U.S. currency. The euro recently traded at $1.0008 while the yen traded at 102.50.
While celebrating the change of the year, decade and 1900s will be on most North American investors’ minds this last shortened trading day of the year, ensuring the transition goes smoothly and that Y2K disruptions don’t mess with trading Monday will garner much of Wall Street’s attention.
"Everyone has been planning for the last two years to make certain that the calendar change produces anything but business as usual on Monday,” NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso said earlier this week.
Many on Wall Street will be working through the weekend to close their books and prepare their accounts for a new year of trading. That will give firms and exchanges plenty of opportunity to process paperwork and transactions and ensure that computers digest information with triple-zero digits in the dateline correctly, Grasso said.
Click here for Thursday’s after-hours news
Click here for Thursday’s after-hours trading
Among those stocks that may garner attention Friday will be long-distance giant Sprint Corp. (FON), which late Thursday reached tentative 3-year contract agreements with union locals in five states, averting a midnight strike by some of its repairmen and technicians.
Sprint reached agreements with Communications Workers of America locals representing about 2,830 workers in North Carolina, Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia. Sprint still has to work out a deal in Florida, whose union local represents 650 workers.
The CWA has complained that the company wants to cut the number of annual paid holidays by one, reduce regular wage increases for newer employees, deny existing employees hiring preferences and trim severance pay.
Sprint shares declined 1-1/8 Thursday to 67-3/16.
Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) could also gain some interest Friday after the U.S. Air Force late Thursday said it awarded the company contracts totaling $1.6 billion to produce six test models of the F-22 fighter jet and begin initial work on 10 planned production jets.
The work, divided among three contracts, is another step in a cautious approach by Congress and the Pentagon to produce more than 300 of the radar-avoiding stealth jets for the Air Force in the coming decades at a cost of about $65 billion.
Lockheed Martin shares rose 7/16 Thursday to 20-5/16.
Finally, Continental Airlines (CAL), the nation’s fifth-largest airline, could grab some of the spotlight after it revealed late Thursday that it took an undisclosed, minority stake in Gulfstream, a privately held, Florida-based regional carrier.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The two airlines have operated under a code-sharing agreement since 1997, giving Continental passengers access to Gulfstream’s routes in Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Gulfstream ranks as the third-largest carrier out of Miami International Airport and flies 230 daily departures out of 10 Florida cities, five Bahaman destinations and five Caribbean islands.