US stock index futures almost unchanged amid debt ceiling talk

Stock-Market-NewsU.S. stock-index futures remain calm with no sharp changes, following the largest gain since January for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as lawmakers continued talks to raise the government’s debt limit to avoid a default.

S&P 500 futures expiring in December advanced 0.1% to 1,686.5 at 7:40 a.m. in New York. Contracts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 7 points, or almost 0.1%, to 15,044.

It’s worrisome if it is prolonged, but they are going to come to some resolution,” said Grant Bughman, cited by Bloomberg, who helps oversee $643 billion at UBS Global Asset Management in New York. “The risk is if they fail to reach an agreement, then all bets are off. That will have a material impact on growth and on equities. But we think that is an extremely unlikely scenario.”

Analysts forecast markets would continue to keep a close eye on political events, but overshadowing any short-term deal is the reality that the problem will just emerge again, possibly around Thanksgiving. The government shutdown, which has furloughed around 800,000 government workers and has triggered layoffs in the private sector, entered its 11th day on Friday.

In corporate news, JP Morgan added 2.6% to $53.90, also in early New York trading. The bank reported its first quarterly loss under Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon after paying a $7.2 billion charge for legal expenses. The third-quarter loss was $380 million, or 17 cents a share, compared with a profit of $5.71 billion, or $1.40, in the same period a year earlier, the New York-based company said today in a statement.

Safeway Inc., the second-largest U.S. grocery-store chain, rose 7.7% to $33.32 in Germany. The company reported yesterday after markets closed that identical-store sales will rise as much as 1.9% this year. Safeway also said it will leave Chicago by selling its stores there.

Wells Fargo is expected to post earnings of 97 cents a share in the third quarter. “We expect mortgage, expenses and earnings asset growth, especially following its pick-up in loan portfolio acquisitions, to receive particular attention [from investors],” Jason Goldberg, an analyst at Barclays, said in a report released earlier this week.

Gap Inc. said same-store sales in September fell 3%, compared with an increase of 6% in September last year. Gap’s comparable sales last month fell short of 1.6% growth forecast by analysts in a Thomson Reuters poll. Gap shares fell almost 5% in after hours.

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