Wall Street set to fall on euro zone, fiscal worries


Stocks were set to slide for a third day on Friday, on track for their worst weekly retreat in five months, as the euro zone crisis extended its reach and investors fretted over a looming U.S. "fiscal cliff."

Growth in Germany, Europe's largest economy, is likely to weaken in the next two quarters as firms postpone investments while France's central bank said it expected the euro zone's second-largest economy to slip into recession as 2012 ends.

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Greece is fast running out of cash while it awaits the next tranche of its 130-billion euro international bailout that is keeping it afloat, a deputy finance minister said on Friday.

The euro dipped below $1.27 to hit a fresh two-month low against the U.S. dollar.

In a speech at 1:05 p.m. EST (1805 GMT), newly reelected President Barack Obama is likely to discuss looming tax increases and government spending cuts - the so-called fiscal cliff - that would go into effect at the end of the year, possibly driving the U.S. economy into recession unless Congress acts to prevent them.

"We're going to get an initial reaction in the first five minutes of his speech," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

"The media is focusing on the fiscal cliff, I think, because Wall Street is focusing on it. Taxes really do matter and they change behavior."

The S&P 500 closed Thursday below its 200-day moving average for the first time in five months, a bearish technical signal that could keep stocks under pressure.

S&P 500 futures fell 7.3 points and were below 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 61 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 5.5 points.

Groupon Inc's results, released Thursday, fell short of Wall Street's expectations as the daily deal company failed to turn around a struggling European business. The company's shares slumped 23 percent in premarket trading Friday.

J.C.Penney shares fell more than 8 percent in premarket trading after the retailer reported a sharper-than-expected decline in quarterly sales at stores open at least a year.

Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers will release preliminary November consumer sentiment index at 9:55 a.m. (1455 GMT). Economists expect a sentiment reading of 83.0 compared with 82.6 in the final October report.

On a more positive note, mostly dismissed by the market, Chinese data for October showed infrastructure investment accelerated and factory output ran at its fastest in five months.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)