US STOCKS-Futures rise amid concerns over 'fiscal cliff',Mideast

Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:00am EST

* S&P 500 falls 5.1 percent over the last six sessions

* Weekly jobless claims, October CPI data both on tap

* Futures up: Dow 20 pts, S&P 3.8 pts, Nasdaq 7.75 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Nov 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Thursday, suggesting equities might stage a rebound from a series of weak sessions.

* Equities have had difficulty holding onto gains lately, as investors seek reasons to buy amid uncertainty over the "fiscal cliff" and unrest in the Middle East. Futures had also indicated gains Wednesday morning, but stocks turned lower midday and ended down more than 1 percent.

* With Wednesday's decline, both the Dow industrials and the Nasdaq ended at their lowest levels since late June. The S&P 500 is down 5.1 percent in the six sessions since election night. Wednesday marked the benchmark index's lowest close since July 25.

* Investors may seek bargains at these levels, and a round of economic data could prove to be a catalyst, but many analysts say strong gains may be hard to come by until at least one of the many global macroeconomic headwinds have been resolved.

* S&P 500 futures rose 4.2 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 20 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 7.75 points.

* Wal-Mart Stores, Dell and Applied Materials are all scheduled to report quarterly results on Thursday.

* Domestically, investors are looking at the fiscal cliff, a series of mandated tax hikes and spending cuts will start to take effect early next year that could push the U.S. economy into a recession.

* President Obama Wednesday held to his position that marginal tax rates would have to rise to tackle the nation's deficits. Taxes on capital gains and dividends could rise as part of the negotiations, pushing investors to sell this year and pay lower taxes on their gains.

* Overseas, Israel launched a major offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza, killing the military commander of Hamas in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave. Egypt said it recalled its ambassador from Israel in response.

* The market will also watch the latest economic data, with weekly jobless claims, October consumer prices and a November read on New York manufacturing all due out at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank releases its November business activity survey at 10 a.m.

* Claims are seen rising by 20,000 to 375,000 while consumer prices are seen up 0.1 percent, compared with a 0.6 percent rise in September, according to a Reuters poll. The Empire State manufacturing survey is seen coming in at -6.7, compared with -6.16 in October. The Philly Fed survey is seen dropping to 2 from 5.7 in October.

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