NEW YORK – Stock futures were little changed on Thursday in what could be another choppy session as the progress of fiscal negotiations in Washington continues to determine the market's fate.
* Several European equity benchmark indexes hit 2012 highs, boosted by hopes a U.S. budget deal will be reached before the year-end, and that the worst of Europe's debt crisis might be over.
* CME Group , the biggest operator of U.S. futures exchanges, joined several companies Wednesday that were moving 2013 dividend payouts to this month to shield shareholders from expected tax hikes in 2013. Without action from Congress in coming weeks, George W. Bush-era tax cuts on capital gains and dividends will expire at the end of 2012.
* H&R Block , the biggest U.S. tax preparer, reported a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss as its cost-reduction measures continued to pay off.
* Apple Inc's rank in China's smartphone market, fell to No.6 in the third quarter as it faces tougher competition from Chinese brands, research firm IDC said Thursday. Apple's 6.4 percent drop on Wednesday was its worst daily performance since mid December 2008 and dragged down the Nasdaq Composite.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Bernadette Baum)