S&P 500 futures are near flat Thursday as the benchmark index closed in on a new all-time high. S&P 500 futures were little changed. Futures tied to the Nasdaq 100 were 0.3% higher. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures slipped 50 points, or 0.1%. The action follows a modestly winning day on Wall Street. The S&P 500 ended up 0.1%, rising closer to record levels. The Nasdaq Composite added nearly 0.2% in the session, while the 30-stock Dow finished 0.3% higher. With just two sessions left in the trading year, the blue-chip Dow and the S&P 500 are poised to finish higher by more than 13% and 24%, respectively. The S&P 500 needs to gain just a little more than 0.3% to surpass its highest closing level ever, which was set in January 2022 at 4,796.56. Meanwhile, the technology-heavy Nasdaq is on track for its best year since 2003, climbing more than 44%. That outperformance has been driven by the artificial intelligence craze and a rebound among mega-cap tech names. The three major indexes are also all on track to notch their ninth straight winning weeks. That underscores the market’s late 2023 rally, rebounding off a negative third quarter. The year was “good for investors to really test their patience,” said Michael Mullin, chief market strategist at Claro Advisors. “There’s a lot that happens in the middle, but at the end of the day, you can look back and be satisfied that you were an investor.” Stocks are now in the middle of a period dubbed the “Santa Claus rally,” which refers to the last five trading days of an ending year and first two of a new one. The S&P 500 has risen about 1.3% over this timeframe on average, per data going back to 1950 from the Stock Trader’s Almanac. Traders will monitor economic data on jobless claims and pending home sales Thursday morning. U.S. Treasury yields were higher on Thursday as investors weighed the path ahead for the economy and financial markets as the new year nears. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was up by nearly 3 basis points to 3.816%. The 2-year Treasury yield rose 2 basis points to 4.262%. China and Hong Kong markets led a rally in Asia stocks on Thursday, while Australia shares closed near two-year highs. China’s CSI 300 index jumped 2.34% to close at 3,414.54, extending gains to the second day. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index climbed 2.54%, also rising for the second day. Hong Kong is still the worst performing large Asia-Pacific market in 2023, down some 14%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200  index closed 0.70% higher at 7,614.30, at its highest level since late April 2022. The index is set to end the year higher at 7.7%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 ended down 0.42% at 33,539.62, after closing more than 1% higher in the previous session. The broader Topix index closed down 0.14% at 2,362.02, cooling off after four straight sessions of gains. South Korea’s Kospi was 1.60% higher closing at 2,655.28, building on gains from the previous session. The small-cap Kosdaq closed 0.79% higher at 866.57. Oil prices fell around 1% on Thursday as concerns eased about shipping disruptions along the Red Sea route, even as tensions in the Middle East continue to fester. Front month February Brent crude futures were down 90 cents, about 1.1%, at $78.75 a barrel in subdued trade ahead of their imminent expiry, while the more active March contract was down 69 cents, about 0.9%, at $78.85 a barrel. U.S. WTI crude futures were trading 80 cents, or about 1.1%, lower at $73.31 a barrel. Oil prices dropped nearly 2% on Wednesday as major shipping firms began returning to the Red Sea. Gold prices steadied after hitting a more than three-week high on Thursday, deriving support from a weaker U.S. dollar and lower bond yields as markets bet on rate cuts by the Federal Reserve early next year. Spot gold shed 0.1% to $2,075.16 after earlier rising as high as 2,088.29, the most since Dec. 4. U.S. gold futures were down 0.4% at $2,085.1. The dollar index fell to a fresh five-month low and was headed for a yearly decline. The benchmark 10-year bond yield was down near its lowest levels since July, boosting bullion’s appeal.