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US STOCKS-Futures slightly higher ahead of 'cliff' deadline

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Mon, Dec 31, 2012 12:50 hrs

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, Dec 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Monday, setting up Wall Street to snap a five-session losing streak as talks continued in Washington over resolving the "fiscal cliff".

* Negotiations were set to continue on Monday between lawmakers and the White House on how to deal with the $600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that kick in at the start of January and could drag the economy in recession.

* The Senate reconvenes on Monday after the open of equity trading with only hours to find some sort of stop-gap deal that would also have to be passed by the House of Representatives.

* Despite the gains in futures market, stocks still could fall on Monday when the cash markets open if there is no sign lawmakers are making progress.

* While hope for a broad deal has largely evaporated, the lack of panic on markets shows that investors still expect officials to find a solution to the budget problems early in the New Year. The measures that kick in on Jan. 1 will have only a gradual impact.

* While midnight on Monday marks the deadline for a deal, the government can pass legislation in 2013 that retroactively prevents the United States going over the fiscal cliff, an option that is viewed as politically easier.

* S&P 500 futures rose 3 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 25 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 2 points.

* European markets were slightly down on Monday morning, although trading was muted as markets in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were closed while UK, French, Dutch and Spanish markets were only open for half a session.

* U.S. stocks dropped on Friday, with significant losses in the last minutes of trading, as prospects for a deal worsened at the beginning of the weekend.

* The S&P 500 closed at 1,402.43 at 4 p.m. ET on Friday, down 1.1 percent, but futures continued to fall before closing 15 minutes later with a loss of 1.9 percent. S&P futures and the S&P cash index do not match point-by-point, but the size of the disparity on Monday points to a weak opening in stocks.

* On Sunday, President Barack Obama, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," said investors could begin to show greater concerns in the new year.

* Investors have remained relatively sanguine about the process, believing it will eventually be solved. In the past two months markets have not shown the kind of volatility that was present during the fight to raise the debt ceiling in 2011.

* Rather, equities have largely performed well in the last two months despite constant chatter about the fiscal cliff, though the last few days shows a bit of increased worry. The Dow industrials and the S&P 500 each lost 1.9 percent last week, after stocks fell for five straight sessions, which marked the S&P 500's longest losing streak in three months.

* The CBOE Volatility Index rose to its highest level since June on Friday, closing at 22.72.



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