US STOCKS-Wall St set to rise on stimulus hopes; Alibaba falls on China probe

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US STOCKS-Wall St set to rise on stimulus hopes; Alibaba falls on China probe

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

* U.S.-listed Chinese firms fall on China’s Alibaba probe

* Big banks gain on recovery hopes

* Futures up: Dow 0.13%, S&P 0.14%, Nasdaq 0.10% (Adds comment; updates share prices)

Dec 24 (Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes were set to open higher on Thursday on hopes of a bigger coronavirus economic relief package, while Alibaba slumped after China launched an antitrust investigation into the e-commerce giant.

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives aim to win quick passage of legislation providing $2,000 in direct payments to Americans after President Donald Trump unexpectedly insisted on the provision.

Congress had on Monday overwhelmingly approved an $892 billion emergency coronavirus aid bill that contained a one-time, $600 payment to individuals.

“The market’s hope of a bigger stimulus package will probably make for a positive trading session. It’s half a day, and I don’t expect too much action,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

Alibaba Group plunged nearly 10% in pre-market trading after China launched an antitrust investigation into the company as part of an accelerating crackdown on anticompetitive behavior.

The news also pulled down U.S.-listed shares of other Chinese companies like Baidu Inc, Pinduoduo Inc and Inc.

Markets will close at 1:00 PM ET on Thursday and will be closed for Christmas holiday on Friday.

At 8:20 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 40 points, or 0.13%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 5 points, or 0.14%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 13 points, or 0.1%.

Investors also cheered reports that Britain and the European Union were on the cusp of striking a narrow Brexit trade deal.

The S&P 500 and the Dow ended higher on Wednesday as investors pivoted to cyclical stocks that stand to benefit most during a recovery, encouraged by COVID-19 vaccine rollouts and passing of the coronavirus relief bill.

“The rotation (into cyclicals) is probably going to continue, and that could happen next week when we have window dressing at the end of the quarter,” Cardillo said.

Big banks Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co , Citigroup Inc, Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc were up between 0.6% and 0.5%.

Altimmune Inc slipped 10.5% after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a clinical hold on the drug developer’s application to begin human testing of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, AdCOVID. (Reporting by Devik Jain and Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)