Stock futures were flat Wednesday as traders kept an eye on the S&P 500′s march toward record levels. Futures tied to the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures added about 0.1% each. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were little changed. The moves follow a winning day on Wall Street to kick off the final trading week of 2023. The stock market was closed on Monday in observance of Christmas Day. Tuesday’s gain put the S&P 500 within 0.5% of its closing record high of 4,796.56, which was set in January 2022. The Nasdaq-100, meanwhile, hit an all-time high in the previous session. These gains add to what’s already been a strong year for the stock market. With just three sessions left in 2023′s trading year, the Dow and S&P 500 are poised to end 2023 higher by 13% and 24%, respectively. The Nasdaq Composite has jumped 44%, outperforming amid mega-cap technology’s rebound and the artificial intelligence craze. The tech-heavy benchmark is also on track for its biggest one-year gain since 2003, when it surged 50%. Stocks are in the thick of what’s referred to as the “Santa Claus rally,” a period comprised of 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, according to data going back to 1950 from the Stock Trader’s Almanac. There’s been “enthusiasm” in the market recently, said Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. And “it doesn’t surprise me that it would continue this week.” Still, he said the market may be overly optimistic, especially if the Federal Reserve begins cutting interest rates later than traders anticipate. The market is pricing in a more than 70% probability of a decrease to interest rates at the central bank’s March meeting, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool. Investors will watch on Wednesday for economic data on the manufacturing industry. U.S. Treasury yields moved lower on Wednesday, as investors considered the outlook for monetary policy and financial markets for the coming year. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell nearly 4 basis points to 3.85%. The 2-year Treasury yield was less than a basis point lower at 4.283%. China and Hong Kong stocks gained ground Wednesday as video-game shares surged, while Australia stocks hit a near two-year high, as more markets resumed trading after a Christmas break. China’s CSI 300 index ended 0.35% higher at 3,336.36, helped by shares of video-game companies that rebounded after declining in the previous session. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose close to 2%. This is the first trading day of the week for Hong Kong markets. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index ended 0.79% higher at 7,561.20. The index hit its highest level since late April 2022, as trading resumed for the week. It is eying yearly gains of over 7%.  Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.13% at 33,681.24, while the broader Topix index also added 1.13% to close at 2,365.40 for its fourth straight day of gains. The Nikkei 225 has gained more than 27% so far this year, making it Asia’s top performing index for 2023. South Korea’s Kospi ended 0.42% higher at 2,613.50, while the small-cap Kosdaq index closed 1.35% higher at 859.79. Oil prices stabilized on Wednesday after the previous day’s strong gains as investors monitored Red Sea developments, with some major shippers resuming passage through the trade route despite continued attacks and broader Middle East tensions. Brent crude futures was down 17 cents, or 0.21%, at $80.90 a barrel by 0940 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude eased by 34 cents, or 0.45%, to $75.23 a barrel. Gold prices steadied on Wednesday as trading was muted in the last week of the year, but bullion was headed for its best year in three on expectations the Federal Reserve will cut rates in the first quarter of 2024. Spot gold was flat at $2,067.14 per ounce, not far from an over two-week high of $2070.39 hit on Friday. Bullion was on track to mark an over 10% gain this year — its best since 2020. U.S. gold futures rose 0.5% to $2,079.20 per ounce.