PARIS, Dec 11 (Reuters) - European stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Tuesday, helped in part by signs U.S. budget talks to avoid the "fiscal cliff" were picking up pace. At 0725 GMT, futures for Euro STOXX 50, for Germany's DAX and for France's CAC were flat to up 0.15 percent. On Monday, the White House and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner's office held negotiations on ways to break the impasse over the fiscal cliff, steep tax hikes and budget cuts which will automatically kick in next month if a deal is not reached before the end of the year. Neither side gave any public signs that they were ready to give ground, but on Capitol Hill, there were indications that preparations were under way for quick legislative consideration of a deal if one is reached soon. "That's the last big hurdle this year. It's going to be tense, but we'll get a deal at the end, and you don't want to miss the rally that will follow," a Paris-based trader said. Investors will also keep an eye on the U.S. Federal reserve, whose two-day meeting begins on Tuesday. The Fed is expected to announce it will buy $45 billion per month of longer-dated Treasuries beginning in January to replace the current Operation Twist programme, which expires at the end of December. Resource-related companies and steelmakers will be in the spotlight after ThyssenKrupp posted a 4.7 billion euro net loss for the year, hurt by a massive write-down on steel mills in the United States and Brazil that it is trying to sell. UK banks will also be in focus after HSBC agreed to pay $1.92 billion to settle a U.S. criminal probe into money-laundering lapses, the largest penalty ever paid by a bank, while Standard Chartered Plc agreed to pay $327 million to resolve allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, Sudan and two other countries. On the macro front, investors awaited Germany's ZEW economic sentiment index, due at 1000 GMT, expected to show a reading of -12.0 compared with -15.7 a month ago. The ZEW current condition index is forecast to fall to 5.0 from 5.4 a month ago. European stocks ended mixed on Monday, with German, UK and French benchmark indexes recovering in late trading after the initial shock from the resignation of Italy's Prime Minister Mario Monti, although Italian stocks took a hit while the country's debt yields surged. "European stocks' positive trend is intact. Indexes are still in the process of hitting 2012 highs. The only laggard has been the Euro STOXX 50, which has yet to close above its 2012 peak," Aurel BGC chartist Gerard Sagnier said. "There's no selling pressure. Just like we saw yesterday, every consolidation is short lived and stocks bounce back. Market players are starting to position themselves for the medium term. They don't want to miss the rally which could quickly bring indexes to 2011 highs." -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- MARKET SNAPSHOT AT 0727 GMT LAST PCT CHG NET CHG S&P 500 1,418.55 0.03 % 0.48 NIKKEI 9,525.32 -0.09 % -8.43 MSCI ASIA EX-JP 539.43 0.23 % 1.24 EUR/USD 1.2944 0.03 % 0.0004 USD/JPY 82.36 0.04 % 0.0300 10-YR US TSY YLD 1.616 -- 0.00 10-YR BUND YLD 1.293 -- 0.00 SPOT GOLD $1,708.90 -0.16 % -$2.69 US CRUDE $85.70 0.16 % 0.14 > GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks rise; Fed move, fiscal cliff in focus > Wall St gets small lift from technology and McDonald's > Nikkei dips, investors cautious after 10-pct rally on month > FOREX-Euro steadies off two-week low, Fed next focus > Gold inches lower; Fed expectations lend support > LME copper eases from near two-month high; U.S. eyed > Brent eases to near $107 as U.S., Italy rattle investors COMPANY NEWS: THYSSENKRUPP Germany's top steelmaker posted a 4.7 billion euro ($6.1 billion) net loss for the year as it took a painful write-down on steel mills in the United States and Brazil that it is trying to sell. HSBC HSBC has agreed to pay $1.92 billion to settle a multi-year U.S. criminal probe into money-laundering lapses at the British lender, the largest penalty ever paid by a bank. STANDARD CHARTERED PLC Standard Chartered agreed to pay $327 million to resolve allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, Sudan and two other countries, capping months of legal headaches for the British bank. INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES GROUP Unions at Spanish airline Iberia, part of International Airlines Group, on Monday called off a six-day strike in December, while warning that protests over massive job cuts could follow later. DIAGEO British drinks group said on Tuesday that its long-running talks to buy world's no. 1 tequila maker Jose Cuervo had ended. NOVARTIS Novartis AG's blood cancer drug Tasigna is better at treating a type of chronic myeloid leukaemia than its older drug Glivec, according to data from two late-stage trials, boosting prospects for its oncology franchise. KBC The Belgian banking and insurance group is selling 1.25 billion euros of new shares to shore up its capital position as it pays back state aid to Belgium. IMPREGILO Italy's biggest builder said on Monday the Brazilian competition regulator had approved the sale of a 19 percent stake in Brazil-based EcoRodovias . AUTOGRILL The world's biggest airport retailer outbid rivals to run duty free shops at 26 Spanish airports owned by public operator Aena, including key hubs such as Madrid and tourist destinations Malaga and Ibiza.