* Obama, Republicans edge closer in budget talks -source
* Global shares, commodities rise alongside futures
* Wal-Mart unit bribed Mexican officials, New York Times
* Baker Hughes sees quarter revenue below expectations,
* Futures up: Dow 24 pts, S&P 3.4 pts, Nasdaq 12.75 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Dec 18 U.S. stock index futures
pointed to a higher open on Tuesday, extending a rally that
lifted the S&P 500 to its highest in nearly two months, as
optimism grew that a deal would be made to avert the "fiscal
Investors have been 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.
But hopes for a deal grew 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.
The report followed a meeting between Obama and Republican
House Speaker John Boehner, who has edged closer to Obama's
position by proposing higher taxes on those who earn $1 million
or more and extending lower tax rates for everyone else.
Many investors fear that going over the fiscal cliff could
push the U.S. economy back into recession.
"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 3.4 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 24
points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 12.75 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.
The New York Times 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
Arbitron Inc surged 24 percent to $47.31 in
premarket trading after Nielsen Holdings NV agreed to
buy the media and marketing research firm in a deal worth $1.26
billion. Nielsen rose 3 percent to $30.50 before the bell.
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. The stock rose 2.5 percent to $50.99.
Baker Hughes Inc said third-quarter margins and
revenue would be below its expectations because of lower land
drilling activity and price erosion, sending shares down 3.2
percent to $39.33 in premarket trading.
Current account figures showed a deficit of $107.5 billion
in the third quarter, wider than the $103.4 billion that had
been expected in a Reuters survey forecast.
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.