Stock Futures Tick Up After Grim Week


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U.S. stock-index futures pointed to some relief for Wall Street after the worst week since June as traders prepared for another busy week.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:00 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 37 points to 12801, S&P 500 futures climbed 5.5 points to 1381 and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 15 points to 2596.

The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all shed more than 2% last week after American elections largely reaffirmed the status quo in Washington, D.C. As a result of the sharp divides in Congress, traders remain deeply concerned about the looming fiscal cliff -- spending cuts and tax hikes that are set to go into effect at the beginning of next year. Analysts generally reckon that an agreement will be struck that will avert what could be a big drag on economic output, but it remains far from certain.

"Our baseline remains that the two sides will find an agreement before the end of 2012, but it is a close call," Goldman Sachs chief U.S. economist Jan Hatzius wrote in a note to clients this weekend. "A failure to settle before yearend would increase the drag on growth via greater uncertainty on the part of firms and consumers."

Monday is a federal holiday, meaning U.S. bond markets are closed. There is also no economic data on the docket. Market participants said they are generally expecting thin trading.

However, the rest of the week is set to be considerably busier for an economic standpoint. The Federal Reserve releases minutes from its last policy-setting meeting on Wednesday, an event that is expected to shed light on the central bank's thinking on the economy and monetary policy. There are also several important releases due throughout the week, including regional manufacturing gauges, inflation data and information on retail sales.

In corporate news, Leucadia National unveiled plans to acquire Jefferies (NYSE:JEF) in a deal values the investment bank at roughly $3.6 billion. Research in Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) also said it will officially launch its much-awaited BlackBerry 10 platform on January 30.

Commodities were little changed. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York fell 19 cents, or 0.22%, to $85.88 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rose 0.22% to $2.705 a gallon.

In metals, gold gained $5.50, or 0.32%, to $1,736 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.07% to 2482, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.37% to 5791 and the German DAX climbed 0.39% to 7192.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slumped 0.93% to 8676 and the Chinese Hang Seng edged up by 0.21% to 21430.