Stock index futures steady; budget talks eyed

PARIS (Reuters) - Stock index futures pointed to a steady Wall Street open, with S&P 500 futures down 0.11 percent, Dow Jones futures down 0.03 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.05 percent at 4.54 a.m. ET.

European shares were flat to slightly lower in early trade on Friday as investors waited to see if a deal to avoid the U.S. "fiscal cliff" would be reached before further boosting their exposure to equities. <.eu/>

President Barack Obama and lawmakers are launching a last-chance round of budget talks days before a New Year's deadline to reach a deal or watch the economy go off a "fiscal cliff." Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will meet congressional leaders from both parties at the White House on Friday at 3 p.m. EST.

On the macro front, investors awaited pending home sales data for November. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 1.0 percent rise compared with a 5.2 percent gain in the previous month.

Investors in U.S.-based funds favored stock exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and emerging market equity mutual funds as the year wound down, data from Thomson Reuters' Lipper service showed on Thursday.

Satellite television provider DirecTV Group said its service fees would rise by an average of 4.5 percent in February due to increasing programming costs.

A Chinese court fined Apple 1 million yuan ($160,400) for hosting third-party applications on its App Store that were selling pirated electronic books, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.

U.S. stocks fell for a fourth day on Thursday, but recovered most of their losses after the House of Representatives, in the barest sign of progress, said it would come back to work on avoiding the "fiscal cliff" this weekend.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.dji> slipped 18.28 points, or 0.14 percent, to 13,096.31 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.spx> declined 1.73 points, or 0.12 percent, to end at 1,418.10. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.ixic> dropped 4.25 points, or 0.14 percent, to close at 2,985.91.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)

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