Wall Street set to open flat on "fiscal cliff" concerns


Wall Street was set to open flat on Friday, the final trading day of the month, amid a cautious mood as investors kept their focus firmly on U.S. budget talks.

Trading has been choppy lately, as investors buy on sporadic dips in the market and react to mixed headlines out of Washington regarding progress in talks on averting the "fiscal cliff," spending cuts and tax hikes that will come into effect in the new year.

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U.S. President Barack Obama plans to travel to a factory in Pennsylvania to press his case on raising taxes on the wealthy to narrow the deficit.

"So far, all the back-and-forth and shared smiles at the White House podium during recent press conferences that promise us a meaningful and workable framework, thus far we have nothing," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist, at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

Still, "despite the impasse last night, it appears that the market remains comfortable John Boehner's perspective remains that there is still a workable framework behind the negotiations," he said.

House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said Thursday no substantive progress had been made in fiscal negotiations with the White House, and criticized President Barack Obama and Democrats for failing to get serious about including spending cuts in a final deal.

After a close relationship for several years, Facebook Inc and Zynga Inc revised terms of a partnership agreement between the companies; under the new pact, Zynga will have limited ability to promote its site on Facebook. Zynga shares were down 8.4 percent at $2.40 in premarket trading. Facebook shares were down 0.4 percent at $27.20.

Whole Foods Market Inc announced a special cash dividend of $2.00 per share. In expectation of higher dividend tax rates in 2013, companies have been shifting dividends or announcing special payouts to shareholders.

U.S. consumer spending fell in October for the first time in five months as income growth stalled, suggesting slower economic growth in the fourth quarter. Market reaction was muted.

The Institute for Supply Management in Chicago releases November index of manufacturing activity at 9:45 a.m. (1445 GMT). A reading of 50.5 is expected, compared with 49.9 in October.

S&P 500 futures were flat and in line with 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 added 2 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 2 points.

Apple Inc's latest iPhone has received final clearance from Chinese regulators, paving the way for a December debut in a highly competitive market where the lack of a new model had severely eroded its share of product sales.

Japan's Nikkei average hit a seven-month closing high on Friday as a weaker yen, driven by expectations the Bank of Japan will act more boldly under a likely new government following December 16 elections, lifted the shares of exporters.

European shares were steady at 15-month highs as investors squared the books on the final trading day of the month, with all eyes on U.S. budget talks.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)