(By Balachander) U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a flat open on the Wall Street as investors continue to eye negotiations in Washington over a deal to avert the looming "fiscal cliff" and digested some mixed economic reports.
Mini Dow Industrial Average futures rose 9.00 points to 13,239. The Nasdaq futures lost 1.25 points to 2,669.25. Standard and Poor's 500 futures shed 0.40 points to 1,426.80.
On Wednesday, U.S. stocks closed on a mixed note, paring earlier gains, as investors weighed remarks by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on the so-called "fiscal cliff" and the central bank's decision to expand its bond-buying plan. The Fed unveiled a new bond-buying program worth $45 billion a month of longer-term Treasury securities starting January. This is in addition to $40 billion per month purchase of mortgage-backed securities.
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President Barack Obama has pushed for higher taxes on wealthy Americans to address the fiscal cliff of roughly $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases that could hit economic growth.
"We cannot offset the full impact of the fiscal cliff - it's just too big," Bernanke told a news conference on Wednesday.
On the data front, the number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits declined last week, a government data showed. Jobless claims fell 29,000 to 343,000 for the week ended Dec. 8 from a revised 372,000, while economists projected 370,000 applications.
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The Commerce Department reported retail sales increased 0.3 percent and core retail sales were unchanged for November. Economists expected a 0.1 percent drop in sales on a core basis. Core retail sales measures the change in the total value of sales at the retail level in the U.S., excluding automobiles.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department said core producer price index in November rose 0.1 percent, while economists expected a 0.2 percent increase. The headline index declined 0.8 percent, sharper that expectations of a drop of 0.5 percent.
Hot Stocks Of The Day: BBY, CVS, CLWR, MET, CIEN, LSCC
In corporate news, Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) surged 17.16 percent in premarket. Founder Richard Schulze is expected to make a formal takeover offer for the consumer electronics giant this week, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) has offered to acquire shares in Clearwire Corp. (NASDAQ: CLWR) it does not already own for $2.90 per share, a regulatory filing showed. Clearwire shares jumped 8.36 percent in premarket.
CVS Caremark Corp. (NYSE: CVS) added 4.54 percent after the pharmacy services provider issued its 2013 earnings forecast and raised its quarterly dividend by about 38 percent.
Metlife Inc. (NYSE: MET) expects full-year 2012 operating earnings to increase 19 percent, though it forecast 2013 operating profit to be lower than this year.
Ciena Corp. (NASDAQ: CIEN) posted a wider-than-forecast quarterly loss and the provider of networking services issued its revenue outlook, surrounding consensus estimates. Shares added 2.12 percent in premarket.
Pier 1 Imports Inc. (NYSE: PIR) posted a rise in quarterly earnings as higher store traffic and average ticket drove sales growth and the retailer of decorative home furnishings boosted its full-year forecast. Shares rose 2.46 percent in premarket.
Lattice Semiconductor (NASDAQ: LSCC) may be in focus after the developer of programmable logic products lowered its revenue outlook for the fourth quarter, citing weakness in the communications market.
European markets fell, with Germany's DAX down 0.47 percent to trade at 7,579.15. France's CAC40 dipped 0.21 percent to trade at 3,639.03. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 lost 0.23 percent to trade at 5,932.11.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index dropped 1.02 percent to finish at 2,061.48. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 1.68 percent to close at 9,742.73. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index shed 0.26 percent to end at 22,445.58. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,229.26, down 0.65 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Ahead of the opening bell, crude oil futures declined 0.44 percent to $86.39 per barrel. Gold futures retreated 1.32 percent to $1,695.20 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro fell 0.08 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3062, and the British pound edged 0.04 percent lower to 1.6143. The dollar added 0.24 percent against the Japanese yen to 83.4600.