Dow to Open Flat as Cliff Looms

LONDON -- Stock index futures as of 7:30 a.m. EST suggest that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) may open with a nominal five-point rise this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) is expected to fall by a fraction of a point when trading starts.

While investors wait for further developments from the fiscal-cliff negotiations, today's economic data could provide reassurance -- or doubt -- that the U.S. economy is getting back on track. At 8:30 a.m. EST, the latest weekly jobless figures are due, with no change expected from last week's reading of 370,000. Also at 8:30 a.m., November's retail sales figures are expected to show a 0.5% rise after falling by 0.3% in October, while November's producer price index is expected to be down by 0.5% after falling 0.2% the previous month. These data will be followed at 10 a.m. EST by October's business inventories, which are expected to have risen by 0.3%, having risen by 0.7% in September.

In corporate news, Hovnanian Enterprises is expected to report quarterly earnings before markets open, as is Ciena, which is expected to report a quarterly loss of $0.06 per share, according to a Thomson Reuters survey. Adobe Systems is scheduled to report after the closing bell and is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings of $0.57 per share, down from $0.67 for the same period last year, according to Reuters.

European markets
In Europe, markets gave a muted reaction to last night's news that eurozone finance ministers have finally agreed the terms for a European banking union, which will be built around a common banking supervisor for banks with assets greater than 30 billion pounds. The European Central Bank will assume the role of banking supervisor, but the new arrangements are not expected to come into force until at least 2014.

At 7:30 a.m. EST, the DAX was down 0.27%, the CAC 40 was down 0.24%, the FTSE MIB was up 0.3%, and the IBEX 35 was down 0.07%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE  ) was down 0.19%. Oil services stock John Wood Group is down by 3.6% after reporting mixed trading conditions. Fellow energy share BG Group is also out of favor, sliding 1.6% after announcing that its long-standing CEO, Sir Frank Chapman, will stand down next year due to ill health.

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