By Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch
MADRID (MarketWatch) — U.S. stock-market futures fell on Friday ahead of the Chicago purchasing-managers index and pending-home-sales data, and before a key meeting between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders as they make a last-ditch effort to avert the fiscal cliff.
Futures for the Nasdaq 100 index NDH3 -0.46% fell 10.5 points to 2,612.
The economic calendar is thin on one of the last trading days of the year, with the Chicago PMI due at 9:45 a.m. U.S. Eastern time. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect the index to come in at 51.0 in December versus 50.4 in the prior month. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Then at 10 a.m. Eastern, the National Association of Realtors will report on pending-home sales for November. In October, pending sales rose 5.2%.
Equities managed to pare losses on Thursday on news of last-ditch efforts to salvage a deal to avert the U.S. fiscal cliff. After dropping below the key 13,000 level for the first time in three weeks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA -0.14% recovered from a 150-point drop to finish at 13,096.31, a fall of 18.28 points. Read: Cliff maneuvering helps stocks trim losses
Late Thursday, President Obama called for a meeting of congressional leaders on Friday in an attempt to hammer out a deal. Earlier in the day, House Republican leaders said they plan to reconvene on Sunday. Read: Obama calls Hill leaders for Friday cliff talks
“Futures are trading lower now because the question is why would we move higher based on just another meeting out of D.C.,” said Adam Sarhan, founder and chief executive officer of New York-based Sarhan Capital.
He added, though, that markets could rally if any upbeat headlines come out of Friday’s meeting, on the hopes that a deal will be reached Sunday. That’s partly due to the fact that volumes are thin and just a few players can move markets dramatically at times.
“Markets in general are taking a wait-and see-approach. They can turn on a dime, up or down, depending on the next headline out of D.C.,” said Sarhan.
Futures took no inspiration from a rally in Asia stocks, as investors there clung to hopes that U.S. lawmakers will reach a deal before the year finishes next week.
The Nikkei Stock Average JP:100000018 +0.70% finished up 0.7%, which left it nearly 23% higher for the year. Japanese markets are shut Monday for New Year’s Eve.Read: Asia stocks extend gains at week’s end
Europe was faring worse, with most markets in the red or near the flat line. The Stoxx Europe 600 indexXX:SXXP -0.39% was down 0.4%, extending earlier losses.
Within other markets, crude oil for February deliveryCLG3 +0.07% rose 18 cents to $91.05 a barrel, paring gains as U.S. stock futures pulled back.
Gold futures for February delivery GCG3 -0.17% fell $3.40 to $1,660.30 an ounce.
Shares of Hewlett Packard Co. HPQ -0.57% could move ahead of the market open. Media reports said that the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the tech major’s allegations that before it acquired Autonomy Corp., the U.K. software firm provided improper accounting statements.
The Wall Street Journal quoted a statement from Autonomy’s former CEO, Mike Lynch, that no regulators had contacted him and that “we will cooperate with any investigation and look forward to the opportunity to explain our position.”
Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid. Follow her on Twitter @bkollmeyer.