Dow May Rise on Fiscal Cliff Optimism

LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. ET suggest that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) may open up by 0.6% this morning, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) is also expected to rise by 0.6% when trading starts.

Renewed optimism that a deal will be found to resolve the fiscal cliff before the end of the year has driven stocks higher in Asia and Europe this morning, and U.S. markets are expected to follow. However, there are several key items of economic data on the calendar today that could also have an impact on trading.

First up, at 8.30 a.m., are last week's jobless claims figures. Reported claims are expected to have fallen to 390,000 after rising to 410,000 the previous week, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Also at 8.30 a.m. will come the second reading of third-quarter GDP, which is expected to improve from 2% to 2.8%. Finally, at 10 a.m., October's pending home sales figures are expected to show an increase of 1%, up from 0.3% in September.

Companies due to report earnings today include Tiffany & Co, which is expected to report quarterly earnings per share of $0.63, down from $0.70 for the same period last year, according to Reuters. November retail sales figures will also be published, and chain store sales are expected to have risen by 3.3% on a like-for-like basis, excluding drug stores, according to a Thomson Reuters survey. Despite this, Barnes & Noble is expected to report a quarterly loss of $0.04 per share.

European markets
In Europe, markets rose this morning as investors' confidence rose that U.S. politicians will agree on a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. Closer to home, Italy managed to sell almost 3 billion euros of 10-year bonds at an average yield of 4.45%, down by almost 0.5% from a sale in October and much lower than the 7.56% yield the Italian government was forced to pay at the same time last year. On the bond markets, the yields on Spain's 10-year government bonds also fell, dropping to 5.25% -- the lowest level since March.

At 7 a.m., the DAX was up 0.8%, the CAC 40 was up 1%, the FTSE MIB was up 2%, and the IBEX 35 was up 1.3%. In London, the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE  ) was up 0.9%, with Rio Tinto leading the gainers, up 4.3% at 7 a.m. after a strong update and investor presentation today. Mining stocks rose generally on renewed confidence that China will hit its 7.5% growth target this year.

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