* Obama to meet with congressional Democrats, Republicans at
* Chicago PMI, pending home sales data on tap
* Futures down: Dow 77 pts, S&P 7.3 pts, Nasdaq 11.25 pts
(Adds Aeterna Zentaris, updates prices)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 28 U.S. stocks were poised for a
lower open on Friday as President Barack Obama and top lawmakers
planned to make a last-ditch attempt at budget talks to prevent
the United States from going over the "fiscal cliff."
Obama and lawmakers will meet at the White House Friday
afternoon for talks before a New Year's deadline to keep large
tax hikes and spending cuts from taking effect and threatening
the economy with recession.
Investors showed their skepticism about a deal coming in
time as the benchmark S&P 500 index was on track for a fifth
With time running short to reach a complete agreement,
members of Congress may attempt to pass a retroactive fix on tax
rises and spending cuts soon after the automatic policies come
into effect on Jan. 1.
"Obviously all eyes will be on Washington and the headlines
coming out of Washington will dictate today's market movement,"
said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global
Capital in New York.
"You do have some economic data coming in, but the market is
probably not going to pay much attention to that. The big thing
is whether Washington will reach a deal by Monday."
U.S. stocks fell for a fourth straight session on Thursday
but managed to to recover most of their earlier losses after the
House of Representatives, in the barest sign of progress, said
it would return to Washington on Sunday night to work on
avoiding the cliff.
Highlighting market sensitivity to cliff headlines, on
Thursday stocks fell more than 1 percent earlier in the session
after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned a deal was
unlikely before the deadline.
With many market partcipants away for the holiday-shortened
week, volume is expected to remain light, which could exacerbate
S&P 500 futures fell 7.3 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 77
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 11.25 points.
Economic data expected on Friday includes Chicago PMI for
December at 9:45 a.m. (1445 GMT) while the National Association
of Realtors issues Pending Home Sales for November at 10 a.m.
(1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a reading of
51 for the main PMI index and a 1 percent rise in pending home
MagicJack Vocaltec Ltd forecast over $39 million in
GAAP revenue and over 70 cents per share in operating income for
the fourth quarter and appointed Gerald Vento president and CEO,
effective January 1. Shares jumped 10.6 percent to $18 in light
Aeterna Zentaris Inc U.S.-listed shares
gained 4.6 percent to $2.27 before the opening bell after the
company said it had reached an agreement with the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration on a special protocol assessment by the FDA
for phase 3 registration trial in endometrial cancer with
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)