* Obama, Republicans edge closer in budget talks -source
* Global shares, commodities rise alongside futures
* Wal-Mart unit bribed Mexican officials, New York Times
* Futures up: Dow 30 pts, S&P 5.5 pts, Nasdaq 18 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 18 U.S. stock index futures rose
on Tuesday, indicating equities could extend a rally that took
them to nearly two-month highs on growing optimism over a
"fiscal cliff" deal.
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.
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 and sap demand for commodities.
"Neither side appears to be digging in their heels so much,
and that increases the optimism there might be a deal," said
Oliver Pursche, president of Gary Goldberg Financial Services in
Suffern, New York. "Political risks have been the main thing
suppressing market gains, so if those abate we could see a rally
that is significant."
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 18 points.
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 said 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 looking into the allegations.
Arbitron Inc surged 25 percent to $47.60 in
premarket trading after Nielsen Holdings NV agreed to
buy the media and marketing research firm in a deal worth $1.26
U.S. third-quarter current account 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 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.