November 19, 2012 / 12:50 PM / 5 years ago

US STOCKS-Futures gain on optimism over budget talk

* U.S. lawmakers say they’re confident they can avoid ‘fiscal cliff’

* Existing home sales, housing market index on tap

* Futures: S&P up 9.2 pts, Dow up 70 pts, Nasdaq up 18 pts

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, Nov 19 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures started off a holiday-shortened trading week in an upbeat mood on Monday, with investors encouraged by signs of progress in talks to resolve the fiscal crunch in the United States.

* Leading U.S. lawmakers expressed confidence on Sunday that they could reach a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff” even as they laid down markers on taxes and spending that may make any agreement more difficult. In response, European stocks also rose from a 3 1/2-month low.

* S&P 500 futures rose 7.4 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 61 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 16 points.

* On the macro-economic front, investors awaited data on U.S. existing home sales for October, due at 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast an annualized 4.75 million units, a repeat of the September total. Investors also eyed the November NAHB housing market index, also due at 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).

* Networking equipment company Cisco Systems Inc said it will buy privately held cloud networking company Meraki for $1.2 billion in cash as part of its cloud and networking strategy.

* General Motors Co and its local Chinese partners, intensifying competition in China in the no-frills car market, on Sunday formally opened another plant for its low-cost Baojun brand.

* Wal-Mart Stores Inc is taking its first legal step to stop months of protests and rallies outside Walmart stores, targeting the union that it says is behind such actions.

* Citigroup Inc has agreed to pay $360 million to the brokerage estate of Lehman Brothers to resolve a dispute over $1 billion in collateral that the investment bank was forced to post in the days leading up to its bankruptcy in 2008.

* Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is expected to announce this week that it will acquire a 49 percent stake in the YES Network from the New York Yankees baseball team and its partners, in a deal that would value the sports channel at $3 billion, a person with knowledge of the talks told Reuters.

* Online financial services company ETrade Financial Corp will shut down its British brokerage business as the company shifts focus back to its core U.S. operations, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the decision.

* Hope that U.S. politicians would find common ground to steer clear of the “fiscal cliff” boosted stocks on Friday, though the gains were not enough to offset the week’s losses.

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