* S&P/Case Shiller data tops expectations
* Obama heads back to Washington after vacation
* Futures up: Dow 23 pts, S&P 1.9 pts, Nasdaq 3.25 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 26 U.S. stock index futures
pointed to a slightly higher open on Wednesday, indicating the
S&P 500 may stem its worst two-day drop since mid-November,
ahead of the resumption of "fiscal cliff" negotiations.
President Barack Obama, after vacationing in Hawaii, is due
back in Washington early Thursday for a final effort to
negotiate a deal with Congress to avert or at least postpone the
cliff, a series of tax increases and government spending cuts
set to begin next week.
"This is what we've come to - the President might get on a
plane today and this is what the markets might react to," said
Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital
Group in Pittsburgh.
"It's all about the fiscal cliff."
A Republican plan that failed to gain traction last week
triggered the recent decline in the S&P 500, highlighting
market sensitivity to headlines centered around the talks.
Data showed U.S. single-family home prices rose in October,
reinforcing the view the domestic real estate market is
improving, as the S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20
metropolitan areas gained 0.7 percent in October on a seasonally
S&P 500 futures rose 1.9 points and were slightly
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 gained
23 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 3.25 points.
The benchmark S&P index is up 13.4 percent for the year, and
has recouped nearly all of the losses suffered in the wake of
the U.S. elections, when the fiscal cliff concerns moved to the
forefront of investors' focus.
Retailers will be in focus as data on the holiday shopping
season begins to come in.
"The broad brush was that Christmas wasn't all that merry
for retailers and you have to ask what those margins look like
if the top line didn't meet their expectations," said Forrest.
China's Sinopec Group and ConocoPhillips
will research potentially vast reserves of shale gas in
southwestern China over the next two years, state news agency
An outage at one of Amazon.com Inc's web service
centers hit users of Netflix Inc's streaming video
service on Christmas Eve and was not fully resolved until
Christmas Day, a spokesman for the movie rental company said on