Futures Tread Water After Tax Deal Approval

Stock futures struggled to find direction ahead of the open Friday despite Congress' decision to extend of the Bush-era tax cuts late Thursday as investors weighed the implications of a downgrade of Irish debt.

The $858 billion tax deal has many market watchers questioning the government's commitment to cutting the country's burgeoning deficit, but could help to boost economic growth, Randal Khan, director of APS Asset Management, told CNBC.

"Anything that gets money into the hands of U.S. consumers is positive for the markets and positive for the economy," he said.

Stocks could be volatile as quarterly "quadruple witching" occurs during the session with stock index futures, stock index options, stock equity options and single stock futures expiring. Investors typically reduce their positions in the run up to Christmas creating low volumes in the markets, which could add to the volatility.

BMO Financial Group of Canada said Friday that it would acquire Wisconsin bank Marshall & Ilsley for about $4.1 billion in a stock-for-stock transaction. Each share of M&I would be exchanged for 0.1257 of a share of BMO.

Moody's downgraded Ireland's debt rating by five notches as European Union leaders agreed to implement a permanent financial safety net from 2013. The news pressured European shares.

Asian stocks ended mostly higher, but South Korea's Kospi index closed at a new 37 month high.

On the U.S. economic front, leading economic indicators for November will be released at 10:00 a.m. by the Conference Board. Economists surveyed by Reuters expect the index to rise 1.1 percent after a 0.5 percent rise the previous month.

Oracle rose in the pre-market after reportingprofits exceeded expectations as new software sales soared. Profits excluding one-time items rose to 51 cents a share in the fiscal second quarter, from 39 cents a share a year ago.

Shares of Research in Motion also rose after reporting surprisingly strong sales and profits. Third quarter earnings rose to $1.74 a share from $1.10 a year ago, as sales rose to $5.49 billion, up from $3.92 billion.

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