Budget stalemate pushes stocks lower

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U.S. equity index futures are down modestly this morning after ending last week by selling off on escalating fiscal-cliff fears.

Stocks continued lower with no signs of weekend progress over the budget stalemate, which could trigger widespread tax increases and spending cuts at the end of the year. S&P 500 futures are off 4.70 points, or 0.33 percent, to 1421.20, and Nasdaq 100 futures are down 11.50 points, or 0.43 percent, to 2,649 at the time of this writing.

Today's Christmas Eve session will end early at 1 p.m. ET. There are no major reports scheduled on the economic calendar until Wednesday.

Overseas indexes are mixed in quiet trading, with Germany and Japan closed for public holidays. In Europe the U.K. FTSE is up 0.14 percent, while the France's CAC-40 is lower by 0.27 percent.
 
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.16 percent overnight, while the Shanghai Composite finished higher by 0.27 percent. Most Asian indexes will be closed on Christmas Day.

In commodities markets, crude oil extended its losses to $88.96 a barrel, off 1.91 percent in the pre-market. Gold is up 0.07 percent to 1161.32, while silver is off 0.19 percent to 30.15. Copper is down 0.2 percent.

In currency markets, the yen continues to fall after last week's Japanese elections and is near a 20-month low. The dollar/yen cross up 0.25 percent to 84.45, while the euro/dollar is up 0.27 percent to 1.3223.

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