Futures fall as fiscal worries persist

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Stocks are indicated to open lower today amid ongoing uncertainty about U.S. fiscal policy.

S&P 500 futures are down by about 0.5 percent. European indexes have been falling throughout the morning and are now down by 0.5 percent to 1 percent. Most Asian markets were positive overnight, led by a gain of more than 1 percent in Shanghai.

The SPX remains in the middle of its recent range, shifting day to day between optimism toward the economy and worries about the political situation in Washington. Lawmakers and the White House must take action to prevent painful tax increases and spending cuts at yearend.

So far there has been little sign of meaningful progress, though stocks rallied back from a 1.3 percent decline yesterday on news that the House will meet Sunday night to address the so-called fiscal cliff.

Foreign-exchange trading is also painting a negative picture, with the euro down across the board. Commodities are mostly bearish as well, with copper, gold, and silver slightly lower. Natural gas is falling by more than 1 percent, while grains are up by 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent.

There are also economic reports scheduled for today: At 9:45 a.m. ET, the Chicago Federal Reserve will release its purchasing managers index of regional activity, followed by November pending home sales 15 minutes later. Neither of the reports is likely to have a major impact on sentiment, so expectations about the course of events in Washington will probably remain the key focus.

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