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Futures Tick Higher Ahead of 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks

CNBC.com
Friday, 16 Nov 2012 | 8:43 AM ET

U.S. stock index futures turned higher in choppy pre-market trading Friday, ahead of President Barack Obama's first face-to-face meeting with congressional leaders on the "fiscal cliff" since his re-election.

The talks are scheduled to start at 10:15 a.m. ET.

"It could go either way. I don't know that anyone has any fantastic visibility of what's going to come out of the meeting," said Gina Martin Adams, head of institutional equity strategy at Wells Fargo Securities. (Read More: What Traders Hope For and Fear in 'Fiscal Cliff' Talks)

White House officials are said to be in advanced talks to replace the so-called sequester—a slew of spending cuts that along with tax increases will take place automatically at the end of the year and likely put the U.S. into recession—with a package of smaller, more targeted spending cuts and tax increases, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The sequester would cut spending by about $100 billion in 2013 and beyond and affect myriad federal programs.

Worries over the fiscal cliff have pressured stocks ever since last week's presidential election, pushing major indexes down more than 5 percent across the board. The fiscal cliff refers to large tax increases and spending cuts that will take place at the beginning of 2013, which could push the economy into recession, if there is no budget deal.

Fiscal Cliff: Markets on Edge
Investment strategies in light of a potential tax increase on wealthy Americans, with Katie Nixon, Northern Trust Wealth Management CIO. "The lack of compromise is really what's been driving the uncertainty, and really the volatility, in the market recently," she says.

On the economic front, industrial production unexpectedly declined by 0.4 percent in October due to Hurricane Sandy, according to the Federal Reserve. The Fed said the storm is estimated to have reduced the rate of change in output by nearly 1 percentage point. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.2 percent gain.

Nike announced it will sell its Cole Haan brand to Apax Partners for $570 million. The transaction is expected to be complete in early 2013.

Among earnings, Dell slumped after the hardware giant missed earnings expectations and added that challenging macroeconomic conditions could put a pressure on the current quarter.

Gap rallied after the clothing retailer posted better-than-expected earnings and boosted its profit outlook for the year.

Sears slumped even after the department-store chain posted a narrower-than-expected loss and topped revenue estimates.

J.M. Smucker posted gain in earnings, thanks to a decline in commodity costs.

Asian and European shares fell, a continuation of the recent trend, on worries about the "fiscal cliff" and a recession in the euro zone.

But Japan's Nikkei 225 rallied, bucking the trend, as investors bet Japan's main opposition leader, who has vowed to put more pressure on the central bank to ease monetary policy, will win next month's election.

—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)

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