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Morning Market Roundup: EU Meets on Greece, Futures Fall on 'Fiscal Cliff,' Oil Dips on Israel-Hamas Ceasefire


Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

EU: Concerns that European finance ministers will again fail to reach an agreement on handing over more bailout cash to Greece weighed on markets Monday.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.4 percent at 5,795 while Germany's DAX fell 0.2 percent to 7,291. The CAC-40 in France was 0.6 percent lower at 3,509.

Most attention will focus on the finance ministers meeting in Brussels though election results in the Spanish region of Catalonia that saw separatists gain ground have also added to investor worries at the start of the week.

For weeks, the eurogroup of finance ministers have failed to agree a strategy that will allow them to release some €44 billion ($56.8 billion) for the cash-strapped country.

The expectation is that Greece will get the money and an extra two years to make the reforms that are a condition of the bailout. But an extension would cost the eurozone several billion more and finding that money has lain at the heart of the current stalemate.

Oil: The price of oil dipped slightly to below $88 a barrel on Monday as a truce between Israel and the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip appeared to hold despite a confrontation late last week.

By around early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for January delivery was down 55 cents to $87.73 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract rose 90 cents to close at $88.28 a barrel on the Nymex after Israeli troops fired on crowds in Gaza surging toward a border fence, killing one Palestinian.

Brent, which is used to set prices for many international varieties of oil, was down 43 cents to $110.95 a barrel.

USI: Canadian private equity firm Onex is buying insurance broker USI for $2.3 billion from a Goldman Sachs private equity fund.

USI Insurance Services, based in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., offers property and casualty insurance, employee benefits and retirement consulting. Founded in 1994, it has about 100 offices in the U.S.

The GS Capital Partners fund took the insurance broker private in 2007 for $1.4 billion, including debt.

USI employees invested in the 2007 deal, and will now own the business with Onex, the companies said Monday.

The deal is targeted to close by year's end.

Futures: Stock futures are heading lower after a warning from White House economists dampened what had been a huge weekend for retailers.

Dow Jones industrial futures fell 48 points to 12,913. The broader S&P futures have given up 5.8 points to 1,399.50. Nasdaq futures are down 6.25 points to 2,628.

On Monday, a new report from the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers said that a sudden increase in taxes for middle-income taxpayers, if the current fiscal impasse is not remedied, could reduce consumer spending next year by nearly $200 billion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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