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US STOCKS-Festive Wall St set to stay near record levels on trade deal hopes

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* China says in close contact with Washington on trade pact

* Tesla gains as Wedbush hikes price target

* Holiday season online sales hit record high - report

* Futures up: Dow 0.13%, S&P 0.17%, Nasdaq 0.19% (Adds comment, updates price action)

Dec 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes were set to open near record highs on Thursday and the S&P 500 was on course for its best year since 2013 on optimism over an imminent U.S.-China trade deal.

Traders returned from the Christmas break to Beijing’s reaffirmation that it was in close contact with Washington about the initial agreement, which is widely expected to be signed in early January.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday confirmed that the pact would be formalized at a signing ceremony, but did not disclose a date or location.

“It looks like everybody had a good Christmas, and that is slopping over into today’s stock action,” said Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners in Pittsburgh.

Hopes of a breakthrough in the prolonged trade war, combined with a loose monetary policy and robust domestic data, have powered U.S. stocks to record highs in the past few weeks.

The S&P 500 is about one percentage point short of its best year since 1997.

At 8:34 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 37 points, or 0.13%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 5.5 points, or 0.17% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 16.5 points, or 0.19%.

Trading volumes are expected to remain thin this week.

The recent gains have come as a relief to investors anxious of a repetition of the volatility from December 2018, when escalating trade tensions led to the worst December on Wall Street since the Great Depression.

A Labor Department report on Thursday showed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, indicating resilience in the labor market.

Underlining relatively strong consumer confidence, a report on Wednesday showed U.S. shoppers spent more online during the holiday shopping season, with e-commerce sales hitting a record high.

Among the handful of corporate movers premarket, Tesla Inc shares edged up 0.6% as Wedbush boosted its price target on the electric-car maker’s stock, partly on expectations of strong U.S. demand for the Model 3 sedans. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Arun Koyyur)