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Pre-Market: Netflix Offers Cheaper Streaming; US Stocks See Best Year Since 1995


Economic data due today could boost shares even higher.

Through Monday's close, US shares have enjoyed the best performance since 1995, helped by easing of the eurozone debt crisis and the Federal Reserve's easy-money policies. Today, stocks are poised to rise even higher as investors and economists expect bullish economic data.

Stock futures are higher ahead of the last day of 2013. Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures were up 0.12% at 16,458. S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) futures rose 0.17% to 1,837.80 and futures on the Nasdaq Composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) climbed 0.13% to 3,570.50. Wall Street will have a full session today and break for the New Year's holiday tomorrow.

On the economic calendar for today, the Case-Shiller Home Price Index is expected to show a 1% month-over-month rise for October. On a yearly basis, home prices rose 13.7% in the 20 cities that the index tracks. Chicago PMI for December is expected to fall 1.7 points to 61.3, showing that the Chicago-area economy is still exceptionally strong. PMI readings over 50 indicate positive growth in business conditions. Finally, consumer confidence in December is projected to rise by 6.2 points to 76.8.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B) will pay $1.4 billion to acquire a unit of Phillips 66 (NYSE:PSX) that makes polymers that help oil pipelines flow more smoothly. Berkshire will pay for the deal by handing back the 19 million shares of Phillips that it already owns. Phillips is currently in the middle of a $3 billion share buyback.

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) will offer a cheaper streaming plan, lowering the already low barrier for consumers to join the popular service. New users will have the option of choosing a plan for streaming on one standard-definition device at a time, for $6.99 per month. For those who have several family members (or share their Netflix passwords with friends) and want a high-definition option, the $7.99-per-month plan (which permits streaming to two devices) and the $11.99-per-month plan (for four screens) are still available. The move did little to move Netflix's share price, which fell 0.28% in pre-market trading.

Hertz Global Holdings (NYSE:HTZ) put a "poison pill" plan in place to bar certain investors from getting too much control after the company noticed unusual trading activity. Henceforth, no individual or institutional investor will be permitted to accumulate more than 10% control of the company without first consulting the board. Hertz shares rose 4.21% on the news. The car-rental company is up nearly 60% year-to-date on the growth of the travel industry.

At midnight tonight, Latvia will become the 18th country to join the eurozone. Latvia will be the third Soviet satellite country to join the single currency. With just 2 million people and GDP per capita of $22,000, its influence in the region will not be significant. Latvia hopes to gain easier trade with member nations to boost its export businesses.

China has ended its 14-month moratorium on IPOs. Five companies will be allowed to trade on public exchanges on the mainland. Fifty more companies should debut on public markets by the end of January. In all, 760 companies are waiting for their chance to offer shares as China developed a registration system that discourages fraud and abuse.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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