US STOCKS-Wall St set for flat open; home sales data due

Mon Dec 30, 2013 9:12am EST

* Cooper Tire falls after Apollo Tyres merger terminated

* Crocs jumps on Blackstone investment

* Trina Solar climbs after China solar plant deal

* Futures: Dow up 8 pts, S&P up 0.5 pt, Nasdaq off 2.5 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set for a flat open in holiday-thinned trading on Monday, on the heels of the best two-week advance for the S&P 500 in five months, ahead of data on the housing market.

The benchmark S&P 500 has risen 3.7 percent over the past two weeks, the index's best fortnight since July, boosted by the Federal Reserve's decision to begin winding down its stimulus measures on signs of economic improvement.

The S&P has soared 29.1 percent this year and is on pace for its best year since 1997, powered largely by the central bank's stimulus measures. The Dow has jumped 25.8 percent and the Nasdaq 37.7 percent this year.

"This market was one that performed better than all expectations and did that despite an improving yet sluggish economy," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

"Now it's head-scratching time: What do you do after a market like this? Do you jump on board to start the new year or play it defensively?"

Investors awaited the release of pending home sales data for November from the National Association of Realtors, due out at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 1.0 percent rise compared with a 0.6 percent fall in the previous month.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.5 point and were slightly 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 gained 8 points and Nasdaq 100 futures shed 2.5 points.

U.S. markets will close Wednesday for the New Year's holiday, ahead of which trading is expected to be light, with many market participants out of the office. The thin volume could make for greater volatility.

Cooper Tire & Rubber dropped 2.3 percent to $22.43 in premarket trading after the company said it was not going ahead with a $2.5 billion merger with India's Apollo Tyres Ltd .

Shares of Crocs Inc jumped 13.6 percent to $15.14 in premarket trading following news that private equity firm Blackstone Group LP was investing $200 million for a 13 percent stake in the shoemaker.

Trina Solar climbed 6.2 percent to $13.96 after the company signed an agreement to develop a solar power plant in China.

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