Wall Street's Top Stories For Monday, Dec 31

Stocks end higher despite a down December

Stocks opened in positive territory on the prospects of progress in the trade negotiations between the U.S. and China. The averages saw their highs shortly after the open and then drifted in a narrow range. There was a mid-day market dip, but the buyers emerged and pushed the averages higher once again. As the afternoon progressed, the news flow slowed, and the market participants decreased. The averages drifted into the close and put the finishing touches on one of worst performing Decembers in history.

ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., the Dallas Fed manufacturing index plunged 22.7 points to -5.1 in December after dropping 11.8 points to 17.6 in November. In Capitol Hill news, the Wall Street Journal reported that House Democrats will attempt to reopen the government, ending an ongoing shutdown, when they assume control of the chamber with a spending package targeted at isolating the fight over border-wall funding.

COMPANY NEWS: Amazon (AMZN) shares were 1.6% higher after the Wall Street Journal reported that the e-commerce giant intends to expand Whole Foods stores across the U.S. in a push to widen the company's delivery reach. The move marks a shift from the layoffs and slowing store growth the grocer experienced for several years before being acquired by Amazon. 

Meanwhile, Disney (DIS) and Verizon (VZ) announced that they reached a broad-based distribution agreement, with details to be released "in the coming days." Shares of Disney and Verizon rose 2.2% and 1.7%, respectively, after the news.

MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Heron Therapeutics (HRTX), which rose 9.2% after the FDA accepted the new drug application for the company’s HTX-011 for the management of postoperative pain, and has granted it a Priority Review designation. Also higher was Portola Pharmaceuticals (PTLA), which gained 14.2% after the FDA approved the company's Prior Approval Supplement for its Andexxa Generation 2 manufacturing process allowing for commercial launch in the United States.

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