* German confidence data drives European stocks, futures
* Fed to begin two-day policy meeting
* AIG shares up as Treasury to sell remaining stake in
* Futures up: S&P 3.8 pts, Dow 28 pts, Nasdaq 11.5 pts
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, Dec 11 Wall Street was poised to open
higher on Tuesday after unexpectedly cheery data out of Europe
and as the Federal Reserve was set to kick off its two-day
The U.S. stock market has entered a traditionally quiet
period heading into the end of the year, with thinner trading
volumes and fewer large fluctuations likely.
Though the pace of talks in Washington to avert impending
U.S. tax hikes and spending cuts quickened, senior politicians
on both sides cautioned that an agreement on all the outstanding
issues remained uncertain.
The lack of progress in negotiations about the "fiscal
cliff" has kept investors from making aggressive bets in recent
weeks, though most expect a deal will eventually be reached.
In Germany, analyst and investor sentiment rose sharply in
December, entering positive territory for the first time since
May, a leading survey showed. The data helped drive European
"We've been getting a lot of the beginning of our day from
seeing what Europe has been doing and I think that's going to
hold true today," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research
analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
The Fed will begin its policy-setting meeting on Tuesday.
The central bank is expected to announce a new round of Treasury
securities purchases when the meeting ends on Wednesday,
according to a Reuters poll. The program would replace its
"Operation Twist" stimulus which expires at the end of the year.
S&P 500 futures rose 3.8 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 gained 28
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 11.5 points.
The U.S. Treasury is selling its remaining stake in insurer
American International Group Inc, bringing an end to
government ownership of the company about four years after a
$182 billion bailout. AIG's shares were up 1.4 percent at $33.83
in premarket trade.
Two firms raised their price targets for Urban Outfitters
Inc, sending the retailer's shares up 6 percent at
Texas Instruments Inc slightly improved its profit
target late on Monday, excluding a massive restructuring charge,
as the company cuts costs.
Also in the tech sector, Intel Corp said it is on
track to launch a new generation of chips for smartphones and
tablets as it rushes to catch up with the competition.
Delta Air Lines said it had bought a 49 percent
stake in Britain's Virgin Atlantic for $360 million and
the two firms agreed on a joint venture.
The U.S. trade deficit widened in October with the biggest
drop in exports in nearly four years, data showed. A report on
wholesale inventories is due at 10 a.m. (1500 GMT).