* Initial claims, consumer confidence data on tap
* Washington to resume cliff talks
* Futures: Dow off 4 pts, S&P up 3.2 pts, Nasdaq off 0.5 pt
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were
little changed on Thursday with legislators due to return to
Washington to restart negotiations over the "fiscal cliff".
* President Barack Obama will attempt to make another push
to resume talks on the cliff, a series of tax hikes and spending
cuts set to begin on Jan. 1 which may tip the economy into a
recession, on Thursday after returning from a shortened
Christmas holiday in Hawaii.
* In a sign that there may be a way through deadlock in
Congress, Republican House of Representatives Speaker John
Boehner urged the Democrat-controlled Senate to act to pull back
from the cliff and offered to at least consider any bill the
upper chamber produced.
* The Treasury Department, led by Secretary Timothy
Geithner, announced steps essentially designed to buy time to
allow Congress to resolve its differences and raise the debt
* Economic data expected on Thursday includes weekly initial
jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). Economists in a Reuters
survey forecast a total of 360,000 new filings, compared with
361,000 filings in the previous week.
* Also due at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) is the Chicago Fed
Midwest Manufacturing Index for November.
* Later in the session at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT), investors will
eye December consumer confidence and November new home sales
data. The Conference Board's main consumer confidence index is
expected to show a reading of 70 versus the 73.7 reported in
November while new home sales are expected to show a total of
378,000 annualized units.
* The benchmark S&P 500 index has fallen 1.7 percent over
the past three sessions as negotiations over the budget crisis
have stalled, its longest losing streak since mid-November.
* But the S&P has recouped nearly all of its declines
suffered in the wake of the U.S. elections and is up 12.9
percent for the year, putting it on track for its best year
* S&P 500 futures rose 3.2 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 fell 4
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 0.5 point.
* Marvell Technology Group fell 5.4 percent to
$7.00 in premarket trading, extending its decline in the prior
session after a federal jury found the company infringed two
patents held by Carnegie Mellon University, and ordered the
chipmaker to pay $1.17 billion in damages.
* European shares steadied early in their first trading
session following the Christmas break, with investors focusing
on Washington's last-ditch efforts to avoid the so-called fiscal
* Asian shares rose amid caution ahead of the U.S. fiscal
negotiations, while the yen hit a 21-month low against the
dollar on the prospect of drastic monetary easing and massive