* Investors look for signs of progress with Greece deal
* Deere shares fall after results, Intuit rises
* Indexes down: Dow 0.6 pct, S&P 0.5 pct, Nasdaq 0.3 pct (Updates to open of U.S. trading)
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Friday, with the Nasdaq set to break a seven-session streak of gains, amid ongoing uncertainty over negotiations for a debt deal in Greece.
In a positive sign, the new prime minister of Greece said he was certain that euro zone finance ministers would accept Athens’ request for an extended loan, while Germany seemed to soften its tone after earlier this week rejecting Greece’s proposal for a loan extension.
However, Maltese Finance Minister Edward Scicluna told the weekly Malta Today that the EU’s biggest countries may be prepared to let Greece leave the euro zone. The CBOE Volatility index rose 5.1 percent, but at 16.07, the so-called “fear index” remains below its long-term average around 20.
While U.S. equities have little direct exposure to Greece, a relatively small economy in the euro zone, Wall Street has risen recently on any sign of progress in reaching an accord. Investors are concerned that if no deal is reached, forcing Greece out of the euro zone, that will lead to extended volatility with a major trading partner.
“We’re not pricing in dramatic risk from Greece, but the fear is that if Greece leaves the euro zone, that would just be the first domino to fall in a catastrophe,” said Tom Digenan, head of U.S. equities at UBS Global Asset Management in Chicago.
“Everyone is trying to avoid that, but from the German perspective, you don’t want to give too much away and set a bad precedent.”
Deere & Co fell 1.2 percent to $90.62 after the farm equipment maker reported a drop of 43 percent in quarterly profit, hurt by a decline in sales.
Noodles & Co plunged 28 percent to $19.90 in heavy trading after the fast-casual restaurant chain operator gave an adjusted profit outlook that was below expectations.
On the upside, Intuit Inc rose 5.5 percent to $96.16 a day after it reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 102.95 points, or 0.57 percent, to 17,882.82, the S&P 500 lost 10.8 points, or 0.51 percent, to 2,086.65 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 16.50 points, or 0.33 percent, to 4,908.21.
For the week, the Dow is down 0.7 percent, the S&P 500 is down 0.4 percent and the Nasdaq is up 0.4 percent. The Nasdaq has risen for seven straight sessions and is nearing the all-time high it reached in March 2000, prior to the bursting of the dot com bubble.
“The market isn’t cheap, but we’re cheap relative to other asset classes like Treasuries,” said Digenan, who helps oversee about $6.5 billion. “We’re at fair value, which implies returns of 7 or 8 percent, which is pretty strong, but don’t expect to get that without risk.”
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,754 to 991, for a 1.77-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,537 issues fell and 746 advanced for a 2.06-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 19 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 35 new highs and 8 new lows.
Editing by Bernadette Baum