U.S. Stock Futures Advance Amid Optimism on U.S. Budget Progress

Higher bar for tax increases on deck

U.S. stock futures rose, indicating the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index will extend an eight-week high, amid optimism that President Barack Obama and Republicans will reach agreement on a new budget.

Apple Inc., the world’s most valuable company, added 1.4 percent. Bank of America Corp. and Morgan Stanley rose more than 0.9 percent to pace gains in financial shares.

Futures on the S&P 500 expiring in March added 0.3 percent to 1,430.50 at 8:38 a.m. in New York. The benchmark index has gained 14 percent so far this year. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 25 points, or 0.2 percent, to 13,209 today.

“It seems that the two parties are inching towards a compromise,” Andrew Popper, managing director at Beauclerc Advisory Services Ltd., said in a Bloomberg Television interview. “Whether we will get that before or after Christmas remains to be seen. They seem to be interested in keeping us on edge but eventually they will get it resolved.”

Obama lowered his tax revenue demand by $200 billion and offered to start tax rate increases at $400,000 in income instead of $250,000, moving closer to a budget deal with House Speaker John Boehner.

The president’s revised plan would raise $1.2 trillion in taxes in the next decade and cut $1.22 trillion in spending, said a person familiar with the talks. Obama wants a large enough debt ceiling increase for the next two years and would accept a new inflation yardstick that would reduce Social Security cost-of-living increases, said the person, who sought anonymity.

Budget Update

Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor will give House Republicans an update on the negotiations today, said a leadership aide who requested anonymity to discuss the plans.

GM, the world’s largest automaker, added 0.6 percent to $24.99. GM will increase the number of Cadillac dealerships in China by about 25 percent.

The Detroit-based company will add about 40 dealers for its upscale Cadillac brand next year, up from about 160 currently, Bob Socia, GM’s China president, said in an interview today. The automaker plans to open 400 more showrooms across its brands in 2013 in China, bringing its total to about 4,200 in the world’s largest vehicle market.

Apple Advances

Apple, the world’s most valuable company, gained 1.4 percent to $526.20. Bank of America said the selloff of the stock could be overdone. Shares fell 4.4 percent last week as UBS AG cut its price estimate to $700 from $780, citing concern that growth may slow for the iPhone and iPad.

At least five analysts have cut their price targets for Apple since Dec. 16, with some saying Apple’s purchases from suppliers indicate sales of iPhones and iPads, the company’s largest sources of revenue and profit, may not meet projections.

The reports from Citigroup Inc., Pacific Crest Securities, Mizuho Securities USA, BMO Capital Markets and Canaccord Genuity mark a reversal from earlier this year, when analysts were racing to issue upbeat predictions, with at least two saying Apple would top $1,000. Instead, the shares have dropped more than 25 percent from a September record amid speculation the iPhone is saturating the market, ratcheting up pressure on Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook to introduce a new hit product.

Separately, Samsung Electronics Co. said today that it will withdraw patent lawsuits targeting Apple’s use of its technology in European countries.

Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. lender by assets, climbed 2.4 percent to $11.26. Morgan Stanley rose 0.9 percent to $18.70.

American International Group Inc. added 0.9 percent to $35.25. The insurer that repaid a U.S. bailout raised HK$50 billion ($6.45 billion) from the sale of its remaining stake in AIA Group Ltd., pricing shares in the top half of the range.

Baker Hughes Inc. fell 2.8 percent to $39.50. The world’s third-largest oilfield-services provider said its fourth-quarter profit margin and sales will be lower than forecast because of weaker North American onshore activity and price declines for pressure pumping.

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