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Stock Futures Fall on Persistent Fiscal Cliff Worries

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were generally pointing to a lower open on Wall Street Tuesday as U.S. investors remained on edge about talks over the so-called fiscal cliff and ahead of a batch of economic releases.

With the worries over U.S. budgetary talks persisting, U.S. investor sentiment didn't get much of a boost from the rally in overseas markets on positive aid news for Greece.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were falling 5 points, or 8.37 points below fair value, at 12,931. Futures for the S&P 500 were falling 1 point, or 1.59 points below fair value, at 1402. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 4.25 points, or 0.22 points below fair value, at 2650.

"An agreement to avert the fiscal cliff before year-end remains our central assumption, though it continues to look like a fairly close call given the political obstacles to a deal," said Goldman Sachs economists in a morning note. "If a deal is reached, we would expect a tax increase of a magnitude similar to the upper income tax cuts, though the composition might differ. Entitlement reforms also seem likely to be part of a package, particularly related to health programs. 'Downpayments' in both areas seem likely, with additional deficit reduction to be enacted in 2013 as part of a two-stage process."

The working deadline for an agreement, according to the Goldman Sachs economists, appears to be Dec. 21.

"While talks are ongoing, we would not expect serious negotiations to begin for another couple of weeks. In the interim, headlines out of Washington are likely to be mixed, but we would expect more negative than positive news until at least mid-December," the economists noted.

The major U.S. equity averages finished mixed Monday as investors tried to decipher the latest round of rhetoric coming out of Washington about the fiscal cliff.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that durable goods orders were unchanged in October after a prior downwardly revised gain of 9.2% in September. Excluding the transportation component, orders rose 1.5%, compared with a downwardly revised increase of 1.7% the previous month.

Economists, on average, had expected orders to fall 0.6% in October and decline 0.5%, excluding transportation.

"Overall sales had been hampered by the impact of the recession gripping the eurozone while of course fears over what is on the other side of the fiscal cliff," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak. "The report appears pretty encouraging given the nature of the rebound in orders outside of the transport sector, while demand for capital goods also surged. The minor downwards revisions will likely be overlooked in the face of strengthening orders in September."

At 9 a.m., the S&P Case-Shiller 20-city Index is expected to show a gain of 2.9% in September after a prior month's rise of 2%.

Then at 10 a.m., the Conference Board's read on consumer confidence for November is expected to show an increase to 73 from 72.2.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency's September housing price index will also be released at 10 a.m. It rose 0.7% in August.

The FTSE 100 in London was advancing 0.45% on Tuesday, while the DAX in Germany was climbing 0.62% after Greece's international creditors arrived at a bailout deal for the country. The deal would finally unlock €34.4 billion in financial aid to Greece, with the agreement that various steps must be taken to make the nation's debt more manageable-- these steps include cutting interest rates on bailout loans to very low levels that could result in losses for creditors, extending the deadlines on loan repayments and Greek bond buybacks.

Japan's Nikkei average closed higher by 0.37%, boosted by the news on Greece and more rhetoric encouraging more intense monetary easing from Japan's opposition leader Shinzo Abe, who is tipped to be the next premier.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finished down by 0.08% as investors awaited more clarity on the economic reform plans of China's new leaders.

Gold for December delivery was off 80 cents at $1,748.80 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while January crude oil contracts were up 32 cents at $88.06.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 1/32, diluting the yield to 1.662%. The dollar was down 0.05%, according to the U.S. dollar index .

In corporate news, Knight Capital Group (KCG) shares were extending prior session's gains, popping by more than 3.5% after the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the firm may sell its market-making business, its most profitable unit. The Journal reported that Knight was being approached by at least two competitors about buying the business.

Ralcorp Holdings (RAH) shares were surging by more than 26% after the private-brand food products announced that ConAgra Foods (CAG) will acquire all outstanding shares of Ralcorp for $90 a share in cash.

Ralcorp on Tuesday also revealed better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings of 92 cents a share; analysts on average were expecting earnings of 87 cents a share.

Revenue came in at $1.07 billion, compared with expectations of $1.1 billion.

ConAgra shares were tacking on more than 5.5%.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR - Get Report) is expected by analysts Tuesday to post fiscal fourth-quarter profit of 48 cents a share in the September-ended period on revenue of $902.7 million.

Shares were up 0.56%.

PVH (PVH) is expected by analysts to earn $2.30 a share on third-quarter revenue of $1.64 billion. PVH is the owner of brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.

Facebook (FB)shares jumped 8.1% to $25.94 on Monday, the third-biggest rally since the social networking giant went public in May, after Bernstein Research raised its investment rating on Facebook to outperform.

Shares were gaining more than 2.5% in premarket trading Tuesday.

The board of Las Vegas Sands (LVS) declared a special dividend of $2.75 a share after Monday's closing bell.

Shares were jumping by more than 4.5%.

Dollar General (DG), the discount retailer, will join the S&P 500, replacing Cooper Industries (CBE), which is being acquired by Eaton (ETN).

Dollar General shares were rising more than 3%.

Equity Residential (EQR) and AvalonBay Communities (AVB) agreed Monday to jointly purchase the assets of Archstone Enterprise LP, mainly a portfolio of apartment properties, from Lehman Brothers.

Yelp (YELP) shares were rising more than 3% after being upgraded to buy from hold at Cantor.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.



>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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