US STOCKS-Wall Street set for flat open on Greek impasse, data

Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:30am EST

* Initial claims in line with expectations

* Lenders fail to reach deal for Greece

* Futures up: Dow 6 pts, S&P 1.4 pt, Nasdaq 3.75 pt

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Nov 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were poised for a steady open Wednesday as investors shrugged off the absence of a deal by international lenders on emergency aid for Greece, and as initial U.S. jobless claims came in as expected.

For a second week, euro zone finance ministers, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank failed to agree on how to make Greece's debt sustainable, which is necessary before the next cash infusion can be made to the fiscally beleaguered nation.

The FTSEurofirst 300 gained 0.3 percent at 1,097.19.

"Futures overnight were down pretty strongly and rallied back, the European exchanges themselves are doing okay, so people are saying 'we didn't really expect a resolution (on Greece),' just kind of learning to live with it," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

Labor Department data showed initial jobless claims dropped 41,000 to a seasonally adjusted 410,000 in the latest week, in line with expectations though still elevated in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

S&P 500 futures gained 1.4 points and were roughly even with 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 6 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3.75 points.

After a 5.3 percent drop since Election Day Nov. 6, spurred by worries over U.S. fiscal negotiations and continued debt problems in Europe, the S&P 500 has risen 2.6 percent over the past three sessions, boosted by positive rhetoric from Washington on fiscal discussions and a market many viewed as oversold.

Gains made earlier in the day on Tuesday were mostly erased after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke cautioned that the central bank lacked the tools to cushion the U.S. economy from the impact - in a worst-case scenario - of the "fiscal cliff."

The cliff is a series of tax hikes and spending cuts which, failing agreement in Congress to avert it, will go into effect in the new year and threaten the nation's fragile economic recovery.

"There certainly was a bit of a selloff, part of it was the election, part of it was some of the reaction to European news and people looking at the fiscal cliff seriously for the first time - but these things continue to grind on and the market is coming back," said Jankovskis.

Financial information firm Markit said its U.S. "flash," or preliminary, manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index rose to 52.4, its quickest pace in five months, from a three-year low of 51.0 in October.

Investors will also look to the release, later in the session, of the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final November consumer sentiment index at 9:55 a.m. ET (1455 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expect a reading of 84.5 compared with 84.9 in the final October report.

Shortly after at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT) the Conference Board releases its report on October leading economic indicators. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a 0.2 percent rise compared with a 0.6 percent rise in September.

Trading is expected to be light ahead of a U.S. holiday Thursday for Thanksgiving.

Deere & Co lost 2.8 percent to $83.58 in premarket trading after the world's largest farm equipment maker, reported a weaker-than-expected quarterly profit.

Salesforce.com Inc advanced 2.5 percent to $149.56 in premarket trading after the business software provider beat Wall Street expectations for the third quarter and maintained its outlook for the rest of the year despite an uncertain economic outlook.