LONDON -- Stock index futures at 7 a.m. EST suggest that markets may open higher this morning as optimism grows that a deal will be agreed on the fiscal cliff before the Christmas break. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) may open up by 0.3%, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) may open 0.4% higher.
Today's economic calendar is fairly thin, but it does include the third-quarter current account deficit at 8:30 a.m. EST and December's homebuilders' index at 10 a.m. EST, which is expected to edge up to 47 from 46 in November. In retail news, the ICSC-Goldman Sachs weekly chain-store sales index is due at 7:45 a.m. EST, while the latest Johnson Redbook weekly retail sales index is due at 8:30 a.m. EST.
A number of companies are due to release quarterly results today, most notably Oracle, which is expected to report quarterly earnings of $0.61 per share after the close tonight. Among those expected to report before the opening bell are Jefferies Group, with forecast fourth-quarter earnings of $0.33 per share; FactSet Research Systems, with projected fourth-quarter earnings of $1.11 per share; and Sanderson Farms, which is expected to report fourth-quarter earnings of $0.35 per share.
Boeing shares could also be actively traded after the company announced after the close last night that it would raise its quarterly dividend by 10% and initiate a new stock buyback program. Eli Lilly and Allstate Corp also announced substantial buyback programs for 2013. Apple and Bank of America have both made gains in early trading this morning, suggesting that they could also be in demand when markets open.
European markets were broadly higher this morning as investors reacted positively to progress in the fiscal-cliff negotiations. There was no major economic news from the eurozone this morning and little in the way of major corporate news.
At 7:30 a.m. EST, the DAX was up 0.4%, the CAC 40 was up just 0.02%, the FTSE MIB was 0.4% higher, and the IBEX 35 was up by 0.8%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE ) was up by 0.4%. Security outsourcing firm G4S was up by 3% following reports that it is likely to be awarded a contract to run a new U.K. government call center. Although the value of the deal is modest, G4S inclusion is significant, as it suggests that the company's failure to provide 10,400 security guards for the London Olympics will not prevent it winning future U.K. public-sector contracts.
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