* "Fiscal cliff" talks stalled until after holiday
* Equity markets have early close, light volume expected
* Futures off: Dow 31 pts, S&P 3.4 pts, Nasdaq 4 pts
(Adds quote, Herbalife, updates prices)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 24 U.S. stocks were poised for a
slightly lower open on Monday, indicating the S&P 500 would
extend losses 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, its biggest percentage drop since Nov. 14, 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 any traction 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.
"It's all fiscal cliff, all 24/7 now, this will continue to
erode confidence and continue to cause problems," said Joe
Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New
"I am sure they will come up with some patch like they
always do, then they will kick the can and extend and pretend,
and do it again later. But it's concerning that they can't get
their stuff together."
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 3.4 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 31
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 4 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.
Aegerion Pharmaceuticals Inc said the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration approved Juxtapid capsules in patients with
homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia. Shares were little
changed at $25.70 in premarket trade.
Herbalife Ltd climbed 3.5 percent to $28.23 in
premarket after the company said it expects to exceed its
previously announced repurchase authorization guidance and has
retained Moelis & Company as its strategic advisor. The stock
has fallen for eight straight sessions.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)