NEW YORK – Stock index futures fell on Tuesday amid investor concern about the looming U.S. "fiscal cliff" debate and how a lack of agreement in Congress could hurt the nation's economy.
Equities have been pressured in recent sessions over the cliff, a series of budget cuts and tax hikes that will start to take effect in the new year. Market participants worry that if no deal is reached to avoid going over the cliff, the economy could fall back into recession.
U.S. lawmakers return to the capital on Tuesday with a seven-week deadline to reach agreement over the cliff, and while most analysts expect some kind of deal will be forged, many concerns remain. Barclays on Tuesday cut its year-end target for the S&P 500 to 1,325 from 1,395, saying there was "little basis to believe a grand compromise is in the offing."
Concerns over the fiscal discussions contributed to the S&P's losses last week, the worst week for the index since June. On Monday, the index staged a modest rebound but only ended up 0.1 percent, off its highs of the session.
Home Depot Inc rose 0.7 percent to $61.60 in premarket trading after the company reported earnings that beat expectations and raised its outlook, helped by an improving housing market.
S&P 500 futures fell 7 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 lost 49 points and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 15.25 points.
The S&P index hovered around its 200-day moving average after last week, closing below the level for the first time in five months. An extended run below it could signal further losses ahead.
The S&P 500 is still up about 10 percent for 2012, despite losses in recent weeks. The Nasdaq has fallen for five straight weeks.
Earnings season continues, with Cisco Systems and TJX Companies on tap to report.
The executive most widely tipped to be the next chief executive of Microsoft Corp has left the world's largest software maker barely two weeks after launching the flagship Windows 8, as CEO Steve Ballmer moved to tighten his grip on the company.
Stocks closed little changed Monday, with investors limiting bets ahead of the fiscal cliff negotiations. Volume was light, with the U.S. bond market and government offices closed for the Veterans Day holiday.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)