(By Balachander) U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a higher opening on the Wall Street amid hopes that an agreement will be reached to avert the looming "fiscal cliff".
Mini Dow Industrial Average futures added 36 points to 13,312. The Nasdaq futures gained 9 points to 2,710.50. Standard and Poor's 500 futures rose 4.20 points to 1,445.30.
On Tuesday, U.S. stocks ended on a sharply higher note buoyed by signs of progress in budget talks. President Barack Obama and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner are negotiating to address the so-called "fiscal cliff" of roughly $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases set to begin in January.
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On the domestic data front, housing starts in the United States fell 3.0 percent to 861,000 for November, while permits for future building construction rose 3.6 percent to 899,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Economists' expected housing starts at 873,000 and building permits of 875,000.
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In corporate news, FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) posted better-than-expected revenue for the second quarter. The world's largest parcel-delivery company, an economic bellwether, posted lower earnings for three months ended Nov. 30., citing lower shipment volumes and higher operating costs because of Superstorm Sandy. Shares were mixed in premarket.
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General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) jumped 9.06 percent in premarket after the auto giant plans to repurchase 200 million shares at $27.50 per share from Treasury, which intends to exit its investment in the company within the next 15 months.
Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) rose 2.80 percent in premarket after the provider of enterprise software posted stronger-than-forecast quarterly results.
General Mills Inc. (NYSE: GIS) added 1.72 percent in premarket after the maker of branded consumer foods raised its fiscal 2013 forecast following higher quarterly profit and sales.
Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) retreated 5.47 percent in premarket truck maker slipped to a huge quarterly loss due to lower sales, higher costs and expenses, as well as a hefty income tax expense.
Knight Capital Group Inc. (NYSE: KCG) climbed 6.31 percent in premarket after the financial services company agreed to be acquired by Getco Holding Company LLC for about $1.4 billion.
Alterra Capital Holdings Ltd. (NASDAQ: ALTE) may be in focus after the insurer agreed to be acquired by rival Markel Corp. (NYSE: MKL) for around $3.13 billion, or $31 per share, in cash and stock.
Symmetricom Inc. (NASDAQ: SYMM) plunged 9.17 percent after the provider of network synchronization equipment slashed its second-quarter forecast, blaming lower-than-expected revenue from U.S. government and domestic communications service provider spending.
European markets traded in green, with Germany's DAX gaining 0.27 percent to trade at 7,674.27. France's CAC40 added 0.53 percent to trade at 3,668.01. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 rose 0.50 percent to trade at 5,955.95.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index edged 0.01 percent lower to finish at 2,162.24. Japan's Nikkei 225 jumped 2.39 percent to close at 10,160.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index added 0.57 percent to end at 22,623.37. India's BSE Sensex ended at 19,476, up 0.57 percent.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Ahead of the opening bell, crude oil futures advanced 0.76 percent to $88.60 per barrel. Gold futures inched up 0.19 percent to $1,673.90 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro gained 0.55 percent against the U.S. dollar to 1.3302, and the British pound advanced 0.26 percent to 1.6295. The dollar rose 0.34 percent against the Japanese yen to 84.5000.