* U.S. lawmakers say they're confident they can avoid
* Existing-home sales, housing market index on tap
* Futures: S&P up 7.4 pts, Dow up 61 pts, Nasdaq up 16 pts
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Nov 19 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures
started a holiday-shortened week higher on Monday, with signs
of progress in Washington talks to resolve the fiscal crunch
lifting investors' mood.
Leading Democratic and Republican lawmakers expressed
confidence on Sunday that they could reach a deal to avert the
"fiscal cliff" even as they laid down markers on raising taxes
and spending cuts that may make any agreement more difficult.
European stocks also reacted by rising from a 3 1/2-month low.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said on CNN, "What I hear is
a perceptible change in rhetoric from the other side."
Also appearing on CNN, Republican Representative Tom Price
said, "Every member of our caucus appreciates that this fiscal
crisis, this challenge that we have, is ever closer." Opinion
polls show that Republicans would shoulder more of the blame if
the country goes over the fiscal cliff.
"A deal that doesn't face healthcare spending head on and
also raises taxes of substance with economic growth mediocre is
not a good deal. This said, the markets will celebrate any deal
in the short term but will likely deal with the economic
consequences in 2013," said Peter Boockvar, managing director at
Miller Tabak & Co in New York.
S&P 500 futures rose 7.4 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 61
points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 16 points.
Investors awaited data on existing-home sales for October,
due at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey
forecast an annualized 4.75 million units, a repeat of the
September total. Investors also eyed the November NAHB housing
market index, also at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT).
Shares of Lowe's Cos Inc, the world's No. 2 home
improvement chain, rose 4 percent to $33.35 in premarket trade
on Monday after the company reported higher-than-expected
quarterly profit and raised its full-year sales forecast.
Networking equipment company Cisco Systems Inc said
it will buy privately held cloud networking company Meraki for
$1.2 billion in cash as part of its cloud and networking
strategy. Cisco shares were up 0.9 percent at
$18.15 in premarket trade.
General Motors Co and its local Chinese partners,
intensifying competition in China in the no-frills car market,
on Sunday formally opened another plant for its low-cost Baojun
brand. GM shares were up 1.1 percent at $24.10
in premarket trade.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc is taking its first legal step
to stop months of protests and rallies outside Walmart stores,
targeting the union that it says is behind such actions.
Citigroup Inc has agreed to pay $360 million to the
brokerage estate of Lehman Brothers to resolve a dispute over $1
billion in collateral that the investment bank was forced to
post in the days leading up to its bankruptcy in 2008.
Citigroup shares were up 1.5 percent at $35.49
in premarket trade.
Online financial services company ETrade Financial Corp
will shut down its British brokerage business as the
company shifts focus back to its core U.S. operations, the Wall
Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the
Hope that U.S. politicians would find common ground to steer
clear of the "fiscal cliff" boosted stocks on Friday, though the
gains were not enough to offset the week's losses.