Updated March 26 at 6:25pm

U.S. stock-index futures decline amid talks on budget, Greek aid


NEW YORK - U.S. stock futures fell, following the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index’s biggest weekly gain since June, as lawmakers prepared to debate the so-called fiscal cliff and euro-area finance ministers discuss Greek aid.

DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. lost 5.4 percent as “Rise of the Guardians” opened in fourth place in U.S. and Canadian cinemas over the Thanksgiving weekend. Knight Capital Group Inc. jumped 12 percent after a person with direct knowledge of the matter said the trading firm expects to receive a takeover proposal. Yahoo! Inc. rose 1.6 percent as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommended the shares.

S&P 500 futures expiring in December fell 0.4 percent to 1,399.5 at 8:17 a.m. in New York, after the benchmark index jumped 3.6 percent last week. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures slid 49 points, or 0.4 percent, to 12,912 today.

“We were not expecting an easy and quick solution to this issue in Greece,” Lucy MacDonald, chief investment officer for equities at Allianz Global Investors in London, said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “They are moving forward, slowly, and that is the direction we think they will continue to go over the next couple of years. It’s not going to be an easy one.”

Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess this week, seeking a budget deal to avoid $607 billion of automatic tax increases and spending cuts from kicking in next year. While Republicans favor raising federal tax revenue by limiting deductions, Democrats have pushed for higher rates on upper- income earners.

Budget wrangling

Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the chamber, said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week” that any deal to reduce the budget deficit should allow the top tax rate to rise. Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said on “Fox News Sunday” that he would be “very much opposed” to raising taxes and advocated closing “loopholes,” including limits on deductions for charitable giving and home mortgage interest payments.

The Congressional Budget Office has said a failure to avoid the fiscal cliff could lead to a recession and a jobless rate of about 9 percent, compared with the October rate of 7.9 percent.

“Fiscal-cliff negotiations are likely to be the immediate focus this week,” Jim Reid, a strategist at Deutsche Bank AG in London, wrote in a report. “As a reminder of the gathering urgency there are only 36 days left until the fiscal cliff is due to kick-in, and from a practical stand point, exactly four weeks until the Christmas break to bridge the outstanding gap between the Democrats and Republicans.”

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