By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica

Dow 20,000 remains elusive for traders

U.S. stock futures pointed to a flat open on Tuesday, with many traders still away for the Christmas break, although retail stocks will be in focus as the first reads on the strength of the holiday shopping season emerge.

The final trading week of the year is typically a quiet one, with light trading and few planned news events--such as central bank announcements or corporate earnings--that can dictate market direction. However, the low volume means that stocks may be vulnerable to outsize moves, especially with major indexes hovering near record levels.

Some investors may be looking to take profits given the sharp rally that occurred following the U.S. presidential election. The Dow is up 8.6% since the election, bring its year-to-date gain to 14.4%. The blue-chip average has come within 0.1% of the psychologically significant level of 20,000, but that milestone has proved elusive.

Read: Dow's 20,000 dalliance is a reminder that it's the best active fund ever fashioned (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-dow-is-arguably-the-best-active-fund-ever-engineered-2016-12-22)

The S&P 500 is up 5.8% since the election, and it is up 10.8% for the year, while the Nasdaq Composite has gained 9.1%, driven by a postelection rise of 5.2%. Small-cap stocks have been particular outperformers; the Russell 2000 is up 20.7% in 2016, with nearly 15% of that rise occurring since the election.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures futures rose 2 points to 19,876, while S&P 500 futures rose 1.25 points to 2,261.25. Nasdaq-100 futures rose 5 points to 4,947.25.

Ahead of the extended holiday break, the Dow industrials booked the seventh straight weekly gain (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stock-futures-point-to-holiday-induced-slumber-but-banks-may-be-on-the-move-2016-12-23) in muted trade on Friday. The Dow and S&P 500 each rose 0.1% on Friday, while the Nasdaq-100 gained 0.3%.

Read: Growing signs that the Dow might not make it to 20,000 by the end of 2016 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dow-20000-isnt-a-foregone-conclusion-in-2016so-dont-break-out-the-bubbly-2016-12-22)

For Tuesday, Case-Shiller home prices for October are due at 9 a.m. Eastern Time, while consumer confidence data for December is scheduled for 10 a.m. Eastern.

"The Conference Board consumer confidence index is already at the highest level since before the 2008 financial crisis and is expected to rise further. That would be a positive indication of the 'Trump effect' on the financial markets," said Marshall Gittler, head of investment research at FXPrimus, in a note to clients on Tuesday.

Opinion: What this week's stock market will tell you about 2017 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-this-weeks-stock-market-will-tell-you-about-2017-2016-12-26)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-this-weeks-stock-market-will-tell-you-about-2017-2016-12-26)Among stocks to watch for Tuesday, retailers Amazon.com Inc.(AMZN) and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.(WMT) might be in focus given postholiday Christmas shopping, and as indications crop up showing just how well they fared over the season.

Across other markets, Asian stocks had a largely lackluster session (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/asian-stocks-trade-mixed-toshiba-takes-a-hit-over-loss-report-2016-12-27), while European equities traded mostly flat (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-struggle-for-direction-in-first-day-of-post-christmas-trade-2016-12-27). London markets remain closed for an extended Christmas break.

Opinion:New Year's Resolutions: What money pros vow to do better in 2017 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-years-resolutions-what-money-pros-vow-to-do-better-in-2017-2016-12-26)

Crude prices posted moderate gains (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-steady-as-investors-wait-for-production-cuts-to-roll-out-2016-12-27), while gold and silver prices moved higher. The dollar inched up against major rivals (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-inches-up-as-market-keeps-a-close-eye-on-trumps-economic-plans-2016-12-27).

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 27, 2016 08:16 ET (13:16 GMT)

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