LONDON -- U.S. stocks were preparing for their final trading day of2012 Monday, on a day when Washington lawmakers have less than 24 hoursto prevent the U.S. economy from tumbling over the so-called fiscalcliff and potentially back into recession.

U.S. stock indexfutures were higher ahead of the opening bell, pointing to a higher openon Wall Street as congressional leaders were expected to restartlast-ditch efforts to broker a "fiscal cliff" deal at 11:00 a.m. ET.

Majormarkets across the world have fared well this year, with benchmarks inEurope and Asia leading the way. The Stoxx Europe 600 stock index is setto gain around 14% for the year; in Japan, the Nikkei Average addedover 22% on an annual basis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hasseen more modest advances in 2012 - up around 6% for the year ahead oftoday's session, and partly held in check by heightened anxiety overbudget negotiations that have left Republicans and Democrats dividedover tax increases and spending cuts.

In Europe, notable regionalstock indexes traded in opposite directions, with mining and bankingstocks in London falling, but shares in Paris on the rise.

Trading during the Asia market day ended on a sour note, apart from mainland China stocks, which saw gains.

Ifno U.S. deal is done, a series of automatic tax increases and spendingcuts will be triggered at midnight, and the U.S. can be expected to facearound $671 billion of tax increases and spending cuts in the earlypart of 2013.

"With the gulf between both parties still wide andthe desire to protect their supporters' key interests so ingrained, itis difficult to see how both sides can compromise enough to agree a dealat this point," said Rebecca O'Keeffe, head of investment atInteractive Investor.

In other financial markets, the eurocurrency declined 0.2% against the dollar at $1.3191, and the price ofbenchmark New York crude fell 11 cents to $90.69 a barrel.