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Pre-Market Primer: Fitch Warns of US Downgrade; Republicans to Pass Their Own Tax Bill

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FedEx was also hurt by economic uncertainty.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL While European and Asian stocks rally, US futures are slightly higher today.

Before the opening bell, Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures rose 0.26% to 13,311. Futures contracts on the S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) gained 0.22% to 1,444.20, and Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures climbed 0.36% to 2,711.25.

Unsatisfied with the president's concessions so far, House Republicans announced yesterday that they will pass their own tax bill as a "Plan B" to avert the fiscal cliff. The bill is not likely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, but passing something now could let the Republicans say that they aren't responsible for a possible failure to reach a deal.

Ratings firm Fitch warned that it would take America's AAA rating away if politicians can't come to an agreement to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Fitch said in its 2013 Global Outlook that America's failure to avoid the cliff "would exacerbate rather than diminish the uncertainty over fiscal policy, and tip the US into an avoidable and unnecessary recession."

"That could erode medium-term growth potential and financial stability. In such a scenario, there would be an increased likelihood that the US would lose its AAA status."

Fitch currently holds the US at its highest rating, but on negative outlook. Standard & Poor's (NYSE:MHP) 2011 downgrade of US sovereign debt did nothing to raise America's borrowing costs.

Global economic bellwether FedEx (NYSE:FDX) was hurt by economic uncertainty and Superstorm Sandy in the last quarter. Fiscal second quarter earnings were $1.39 per share, down from $1.57 in the previous year.

FedEx Executive Vice President and CFO Alan B. Graf said, "The mounting uncertainty in the US related to fiscal policies and their potential to impact earnings by further restraining economic growth is a concern."

The board of market-maker Knight Capital (NYSE:KCG) voted yesterday to accept a merger offer with GETCO after GETCO sweetened the deal and offered a higher premium for Knight's shares. Knight Capital was nearly wiped out this summer after a software glitch resulted in erroneous trades.

Germany's Ifo business climate index rose one point to 102.4 this month, exceeding expectations.

Japanese exports declined by 4.1% on a yearly basis last month, leaving the country with its fifth-straight month of trade deficits. Widespread boycotts in China led to a 14.5% decline in exports to the country, which is Japan's biggest trading partner. Exports to the European Union fared worse, declining 19.9%.

US builders broke ground on homes at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 861,000 last month. Despite the interruption caused by Hurricane Sandy, housing starts declined by just 4,000 from October. Builders applied for permits at a faster annualized rate of 899,000.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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