* Investors look for progress in Washington talks
* Italian prime minister resignation adds to uncertainty
* McDonald's shares rise on November sales
* Fed expected to announce new round of bond buying this
* Futures: S&P down 0.5 pt, Dow up 2 pts, Nasdaq down 3.5
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, Dec 10 U.S. stocks were set to open
little changed on Monday as investors awaited any sign of
progress in talks to avert the United States' so-called fiscal
cliff of tax hikes and spending cuts.
Developments in Europe weighed after Italian Prime Minister
Mario Monti said he would resign once the 2013 budget is
approved. The move added to uncertainty about handling the euro
zone debt crisis and drove Italy's borrowing costs higher.
U.S. President Barack Obama met with Republican House
Speaker John Boehner on Sunday to negotiate a deal for avoiding
the "fiscal cliff" that is set to go into effect in the new
The two sides declined to provide details about the
The "fiscal cliff" talks have kept markets on edge in the
last month as investors worry the scheduled measures could send
the economy into recession if politicians do not reach a deal.
"It is taking its toll on consumers, no question about that,
but at the very end there will be a deal," said Peter Cardillo,
chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
Shares of McDonald's Corp rose 2.2 percent to $90.40
before the open after the company announced
stronger-than-expected November sales.
Cardillo said he expected a choppy trading day that could
end near Friday's close as investors start to turn their
attention to the Federal Reserve's policy-setting meeting on
Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Fed is expected to announce a new round of Treasury
securities purchases at the end of the meeting, according to a
Reuters poll. The bond buying would replace the "Operation
Twist" stimulus, which expires at the end of December.
S&P 500 futures fell 0.5 point and were below 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 2
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures slipped 3.5 points.
U.S.-listed shares of energy company Nexen Inc
surged nearly 15 percent after Canada approved the
company's takeover by China's CNOOC Ltd. The stock was
up 14.7 percent at $26.97 in premarket trading.
Ingersoll-Rand Plc said it will spin off its security
division and announced a $2 billion share buyback. The stock was
up 3 percent at $50.15.
Honeywell International said it will buy mobile
computing devices maker Intermec for $600 million. Shares
of Intermec jumped 22.7 percent to $9.79.
Honeywell also forecast 2013 profit below estimates, partly
hurt by a charge related to the acquisition.
China's export growth slowed sharply in November,
highlighting the global headwinds dragging on the world's
second-largest economy. But other data over the weekend showed
both industrial output and retail sales rose in November at
their fastest annual pace in eight months, suggesting China's
economy is picking up.