* Optimism continues to grow over "cliff" deal
* Global shares, commodities rise alongside futures
* Wal-Mart unit bribed officials to open stores: NYT
* Indexes up: S&P 0.8 pct, Dow 1.2 pct, Nasdaq 1.3 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 18 U.S. stock index futures rose
on Tuesday, indicating equities could extend a rally that took
them nearly two-months highs on growing optimism over a "fiscal
* Stocks have struggled for direction in recent weeks, with
investors reluctant to make big bets in the face of uncertainty
over the cliff, a combination of steep tax hikes and spending
cuts that could hurt the U.S. economy if they take effect next
year. Moves have been muted over the past weeks, with volume
* Hopes for a deal grew on Monday night as President Barack
Obama made a counter-offer to Republicans that included a major
change in position on tax hikes for the wealthy, according to a
source familiar with the talks.
* That report followed a meeting between Obama and
Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who has edged closer to
Obama's position by proposing to extend lower tax rates for
everyone who earns less than $1 million.
* S&P 500 futures rose 5.5 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 added 30
points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 14 points.
* Many investors fear that going over the fiscal cliff could
push the U.S. economy back into recession, an outcome that would
also pressure global growth rates and sap demand for
* European shares rose 0.3 percent on Monday, while
January crude futures were up 0.6 percent. The MSCI index
of global stocks rose 0.2 percent.
* While the cliff has been the primary driver for markets,
tech shares will also be in view as Oracle Corp reports
results after the market closes. The company is seen posting
profit growth of more than 10 percent, but a 2.3 percent dip in
revenue, according to Thomson Reuters data.
* Reporting quarterly results early on Tuesday, Sanderson
Farms Inc posted a better-than-expected profit,
helped by rising poultry prices. Jefferies Group is on
tap to report later in the day.
* The New York Times late Monday reported that Wal-Mart
Stores Inc's Mexican affiliate routinely used bribes to
open stores in desirable locations. The story cited 19 instances
of the retail giant paying off local officials.
In a statement Monday night, Wal-Mart spokesman
David Tovar said the company was already looking into the
* U.S. third-quarter current account deficit figures are
due to be released at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT). Economists in a
Reuters survey forecast a $103.4 billion deficit versus a
deficit of $117.4 billion in Q2.
* Hopes for a fiscal cliff deal also lifted shares on
Monday, breaking a two-day decline for the S&P. The Dow and
Nasdaq surged more than 1 percent in Monday's session, while all
10 S&P 500 sectors ended higher.