U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Thursday with legislators due to return to Washington to restart negotiations over the "fiscal cliff".
President Barack Obama will attempt to make another push to resume talks on the cliff, a series of tax hikes and spending cuts set to begin on January 1 which may tip the economy into a recession, on Thursday after returning from a shortened Christmas holiday in Hawaii.
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In a sign that there may be a way through deadlock in Congress, Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner urged the Democrat-controlled Senate to act to pull back from the cliff and offered to at least consider any bill the upper chamber produced.
The Treasury Department, led by Secretary Timothy Geithner, announced steps essentially designed to buy time to allow Congress to resolve its differences and raise the debt ceiling.
Economic data expected on Thursday includes weekly initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 360,000 new filings, compared with 361,000 filings in the previous week.
Also due at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) is the Chicago Fed Midwest Manufacturing Index for November.
Later in the session at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT), investors will eye December consumer confidence and November new home sales data. The Conference Board's main consumer confidence index is expected to show a reading of 70 versus the 73.7 reported in November while new home sales are expected to show a total of 378,000 annualized units.
The benchmark S&P 500 index has fallen 1.7 percent over the past three sessions as negotiations over the budget crisis have stalled, its longest losing streak since mid-November.
But the S&P has recouped nearly all of its declines suffered in the wake of the U.S. elections and is up 12.9 percent for the year, putting it on track for its best year since 2009.
S&P 500 futures rose 3.2 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 fell 4 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 0.5 point.
Marvell Technology Group fell 5.4 percent to $7.00 in premarket trading, extending its decline in the prior session after a federal jury found the company infringed two patents held by Carnegie Mellon University, and ordered the chipmaker to pay $1.17 billion in damages.
European shares steadied early in their first trading session following the Christmas break, with investors focusing on Washington's last-ditch efforts to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.
Asian shares rose amid caution ahead of the U.S. fiscal negotiations, while the yen hit a 21-month low against the dollar on the prospect of drastic monetary easing and massive state spending.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)