US STOCKS-Wall St set for big gains on first trading day of 2017

By Yashaswini Swamynathan

Jan 3 (Reuters) – Wall Street looked set for big gains on Tuesday, the first trading day of 2017, with all eyes on the Dow Jones Industrial Average as it zeroes in on the historical 20,000 mark.

After coming within a hair’s breadth of the milestone in December as part of a post-election rally, the Dow will make a fresh attempt at breaching the mark.

The Dow rose 13.4 percent in 2016 – its best performance in three years – registering strong gains in the past two months as investors bet that Presidential-elect Donald Trump would introduce market friendly policies such as tax cuts and simpler regulation.

Dow futures advanced by triple-digit points on Tuesday, helped by a jump in oil prices and upbeat economic data from China.

Brent crude hit an 18-month high of $58.06 after a deal to limit oversupply came into effect on Sunday.

China’s factory activity picked up more than expected in December giving the manufacturing sector a solid boost heading into 2017, according to a private business survey.

“We expect a strong start to the day’s trading session, as oil prices and the macro news set the stage for the direction of the equities markets this year,” Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial, wrote in a client note.

The dollar index was on a tear, notching its best day in nearly three weeks at 103.44, while higher inflation data sent European stocks to a one-year high.

Dow e-minis were up 133 points, or 0.67 percent at 8:26 a.m. ET (1326 GMT), with 28,004 contracts changing hands.

S&P 500 e-minis were up 15.25 points, or 0.68 percent, with 153,651 contracts traded.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 37.25 points, or 0.77 percent, on volume of 23,297 contracts.

Data on tap includes the ISM Manufacturing Purchasing Manufacturer’s index (PMI), which is expected to have edged up to 53.6 in December from 53.2 in the previous month. The report is due at 10:00 a.m. ET (1700 GMT).

Technology stocks including Ebay, Micron Tech , and Facebook were primed for gains

Bank of America, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo were up between 0.9 percent and 2 percent after Barclays raised its price targets on the stocks.

General Motors slipped by half a percent to $34.65 after Trump slammed the carmaker in a tweet for sending Mexican-made models of its Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers without paying border taxes.

Marathon Petroleum rose 3.8 percent to $52.25 after the company said it would explore a spinoff of its retail business, caving to pressure from activist investor Elliott Management. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)