US STOCKS-Wall St set to open higher, set for best year since 1997

Tue Dec 31, 2013 9:17am EST

* Report shows home price rise; consumer confidence data due

* Marvell Technology climbs after KKR reports stake

* Berkshire Hathaway to buy unit from Phillips 66

* Futures up: Dow 34 pts, S&P 3.6 pts, Nasdaq 6 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Dec 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set for a modestly higher open on Tuesday after data showed home prices rose, keeping the S&P 500 on track for its best year since 1997 and the Dow on pace to record its best performance since 1996.

The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas gained 0.2 percent in October from September but posted their strongest annualized gain in October in more than seven years.

Later in the session at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT), investors will eye the Conference Board's consumer confidence data. Expectations call for the reading to increase to 76 from the 70.4 in the prior month.

"Consumer confidence, that is an interesting number because even though it's been lagging it looks like this holiday season was OK enough for retailers. But a little bit of data is always good," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst, Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

The S&P 500 is up 29.1 percent for the year and the Dow is up nearly 26 percent for 2013, boosted in large part by stimulus measures by the Federal Reserve. The Fed recently announced it will trim its monthly bond purchases in response to an improving economic picture.

The Nasdaq is up 37.6 percent for the year, setting the technology-heavy index up for its best yearly performance since 2009.

"The data (this year) wasn't as strong as I would have liked to have seen it, but I guess comparatively we have seen improvement in the fundamental data that tells us the economy continues to heal. I can't wait until I'm back in the business of just looking at companies as opposed to watching the Fed," said Forrest.

S&P 500 futures rose 3.6 points 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 gained 34 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 6 points.

For the month to date, the Dow is up 2.6 percent, the S&P has gained 2 percent and the Nasdaq has risen 2.3 percent.

Trading volume is once again expected to be light with U.S. markets closed Wednesday for the New Year's holiday. Many traders are away, so the thin volume could make for greater volatility.

Volume on Monday totaled 4.37 billion shares, well short of the 5.89 billion average so far this month, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

Marvell Technology Group Ltd jumped 5.7 percent to $14.55 in premarket trade after private equity firm KKR & Co LLP reported a 6.8 percent stake in the chipmaker, according to a regulatory filing.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc struck a deal for around $1.4 billion of stock to buy a Phillips 66 business that makes chemicals to improve the flow potential of pipelines. Phillips shares were flat at $74.72 in premarket.

Hertz Global Holdings Inc gained 4 percent to $26.95 before the opening bell after the company said it had adopted a one-year shareholder rights plan in response to "unusual and substantial activity" it has observed in its shares.

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