) -- U.S. stock futures were flat Friday as President Obama prepared to meet with congressional leaders to discuss ways to avoid the looming fiscal cliff.

Expected to attend Friday's meeting with Obama are the top four leaders of Congress: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

European stocks were relatively unchanged while Asian shares ended Friday's trading session mixed. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index jumped 2.2% to close at 9,024.16.

The economic calendar in the U.S. Friday includes industrial production and capacity utilization for October at 9:15 a.m. EST.

U.S. stocks

on Thursday fell after the latest data on the employment picture and manufacturing activity disappointed investors. A poor outlook from retailing giant

Wal-Mart Stores

(WMT) - Get Report

also contributed to the negativity.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

fell more than 28 points, or 0.23%, to close at 12,542. The blue-chip index has declined in four straight sessions and in six of the past seven days.


(DELL) - Get Report

, the PC maker, came up short Thursday in its latest quarter and gave a lackluster outlook.


posted third-quarter non-GAAP profit of $679 million, or 39 cents a share, on revenue of $13.72 billion, below analysts' expectations of earnings of 40 cents a share on revenue of $13.89 billion.

Dell said it expects a "challenging macro-economic environment" to continue into the fourth quarter and forecast sequential revenue growth of 2%-5% for the January-ending period, implying revenue of $13.99 billion to $14.41 billion. Analysts forecast revenue of $14.48 billion in the quarter. For the full year, Dell stuck to its forecast for non-GAAP earnings of at least $1.70 a share, below the analysts' estimate of $1.73 a share.

Sears Holdings


, the department store operator, posted a quarterly loss Thursday of $498 million, or $4.70 a share, on revenue of $8.86 billion, wider than its year-earlier loss of $421 million, or $3.95 a share, on revenue of $9.41 billion.

Earnings are expected Friday from

Foot Locker

(FL) - Get Report


J.M. Smucker

(SJM) - Get Report


AnnTaylor Stores



Casual Male Retail Group






Hibbett Sports

(HIBB) - Get Report


Shipping giants


(FDX) - Get Report



(UPS) - Get Report

are targets of a criminal probe related to their dealings with online pharmacies at the center of an international crackdown on prescription drug abuse.

The companies made the disclosures in regulatory filings over the last several weeks. FedEx spokesman Patrick Fitzgerald confirmed the probe in a prepared statement and a phone interview with

The Associated Press

on Thursday.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is expected to serve

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

with a formal action alleging weaknesses in the bank's antimoney-laundering systems,

The Wall Street Journal

reported, citing people close to the situation.

The cease-and-desist order from the OCC is part of a broader crackdown on the nation's largest banks, the people told the




(GOOG) - Get Report

has held talks with

Dish Network

(DISH) - Get Report

in recent weeks to partner on a new wireless service that would rival the networks of wireless carriers such as



Verizon Wireless

, according to people familiar with the discussions, the



-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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Joseph Woelfel

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