US STOCKS-Wall St set for flat open as market digests budget deal
* U.S. budget deal gets tentative approval
* Costco shares drop after profit misses estimates
* Futures: Dow up 12 pts; S&P flat; Nasdaq down 0.5 pt
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open little changed on Wednesday as investors assessed a provisional budget deal reached in Washington and its potential impact on an expected wind-down of Federal Reserve stimulus.
A bipartisan budget deal announced in the U.S. Congress late Tuesday, though modest in spending cuts, would end three years of impasse and fiscal instability in Washington that culminated in October with a partial government shutdown.
While the agreement removed a key uncertainty hanging over markets, some expect it will strengthen a view that the U.S. central bank may soon start to scale back its $85 billion-a-month stimulus program.
"The market did not have ample time to properly examine the potential impact (of the budget deal on Fed's stimulus program). The expectation of tapering is definitely among investors and we will have to see how everything plays out," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
Although the benchmark S&P 500 hit a record close earlier in the week, investors have hesitated to make big bets ahead of next week's Federal Reserve meeting, in the absence of market-moving economic data. The Federal Open Market Committee meeting is set for Dec. 17-18.
S&P 500 futures reversed earlier losses to trade flat and were in line 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 rose 12 points while Nasdaq 100 futures lost 0.5 point.
Despite retreating Tuesday in thin trading, the S&P 500 held above key technical indicators, including its 14-day moving average.
"I still have my eye on the S&P 500 index's 1,800 level," said Bryan Sapp, senior trading analyst at Schaeffer's investment research in a note to clients.
"The market saw support there twice (on Tuesday). Going forward, though, a failure at this round number could potentially result in a move down to 1,780 or so, which is last week's pre-jobs-report low."
In company news, Costco Wholesale Corp shares slipped 1.5 percent in premarket trading after the retailer's first-quarter profit missed Wall Street estimates due to lower gasoline prices and weak foreign currencies.
Home Depot Inc shares were little changed in premarket trading after the company said it expects sales growth of approximately 5 percent in 2014.
Mining equipment maker Joy Global Inc forecast 2014 earnings below analysts' estimates after reporting a quarterly profit that fell short of expectations as miners cut spending. Still, the stock rose 4.4 percent in premarket trade.
Economic data expected on Wednesday includes the Treasury Department's monthly budget data for November at 2:00 p.m. EST (1900 GMT).
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