US STOCKS-Futures point to flat open in shortened session

Tue Dec 24, 2013 8:47am EST

* Dow, S&P 500 closed at all-time highs Monday

* Market closes early, remains shut through Christmas Day

* Carlyle near deal to buy J&J unit: sources

* Dow up 10 pts, S&P up 1 pt, Nasdaq down 1.25 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Dec 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat open on Tuesday, as investors were reluctant to make big bets ahead of the Christmas Day holiday, with equity indexes at record highs.

Markets will close early on Tuesday and remain shut until Thursday for the holiday. Trading is expected to be very light during the shortened session, with many market participants out of the office. The light action could allow for greater volatility.

Retail stocks will be in focus as the holiday shopping season draws to a close. Sales have been soft this season, and many stores have offered steep discounts to lure customers.

Wall Street rallied on Monday, with both the Dow and S&P 500 advancing to all-time highs while the Nasdaq climbed to its highest since August 2000. Further upside may be limited at these levels, especially in the absence of major trading catalysts.

"Investors have taken their positions for the year, so what we're seeing is a market pause to digest the very strong rally we've had," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.

Orders for durable goods rose 3.5 percent in November, above expectations for a jump of 2 percent, as demand increased for a range of goods from aircraft to machinery and computers and electronic products. Futures were little impacted by the data.

November home sales are also on tap on Tuesday, scheduled for release at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT) Sales are seen holding steady with the previous month.

S&P 500 futures rose 1 point and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 10 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 1.25 points.

The S&P 500 has soared 28.2 percent this year, largely due to the Fed's stimulus measures, and is on track for its best year since 1997. The Dow is up 24.3 percent in 2013 while the Nasdaq has jumped 37.4 percent.

In company news, private equity firm Carlyle Group LP is nearing an agreement to acquire Johnson & Johnson's ortho clinical diagnostics unit, people familiar with the matter said Monday, in a deal expected to be worth around $4 billion. Shares of J&J edged higher in light premarket trading.

Target Corp's general counsel, Timothy Baer, spoke with top state prosecutors on Monday to address their concerns about a massive data breach, as consumer lawsuits piled up against the retailer and two U.S. senators called for a federal probe.

Walt Disney Co named Twitter Inc co-founder Jack Dorsey an independent board director.

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