* "Fiscal cliff" talks stalled until after holiday
* Equity markets have early close, light volume expected
* Futures off: Dow 34 pts, S&P 4.9 pts, Nasdaq 11.5 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 24 U.S. stock index futures
declined on Monday, indicating the S&P 500 would extend its
decline after suffering its worst drop since mid-November on
continued worry legislators will be unable to reach a deal to
avert the "fiscal cliff."
* The benchmark S&P index declined 0.9 percent on
Friday as a Republican plan to avoid the cliff, $600 billion in
tax hikes and spending cuts that could tip the U.S. economy into
recession, failed to gain sufficient support on Thursday night.
* Some U.S. lawmakers expressed concern on Sunday the
country would go over the cliff, as some Republicans charged
that was President Barack Obama's goal. Talks are stalled with
Obama and House of Represenatives Speaker John Boehner out of
Washington for the holidays.
* Congress is expected to return to Washington next Thursday
as Obama returns from a trip to Hawaii. As the deadline draws
closer, a 'stop-gap' deal appears to be the most likely outcome
of any talks.
* S&P 500 futures fell 4.9 points 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 lost 34
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 11.5 points.
* Trading volumes are expected to be muted, with U.S. equity
markets scheduled to close at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) ahead of the
Christmas holiday on Tuesday.
* In addition, a number of European markets will operate on
a shortened session, with other markets closed entirely.
* U.S. retailers may not see a sales surge this weekend as
ho-hum discounts and fears about imminent tax hikes and cuts in
government spending give Americans fewer reasons to open their
wallets in the last few days before Christmas.
* European shares were broadly steady, consolidating sharp
gains made in the past five weeks, with volumes set to be thin
for the traditionally quiet half session ahead of the Christmas
* Asian shares steadied in quiet pre-holiday trade from a
slump late last week, with prices capped by nervousness about
the risk of the United States failing to avert a fiscal crisis.