Stock index futures advanced on Monday, signaling a strong open on Wall Street, as European and Asian equities were boosted partly on a possible merger between two big banks in Greece.

Wall Street traders were also relieved that Hurricane Irene caused less damage than feared in New York City over the weekend.

The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq will operate as normal, although volumes were expected to be thin. Many Wall Street workers were stuck at home as commuter rail and bus lines were shut down and the New York City subway system was only slowly returning to service early Monday after being closed down.

The trading volume is likely to be moderate, but we are looking at a higher open today, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

The merger between the Greek banks has set a positive tone for Wall Street, which is in for a full week of heavy economic data.

EFG Eurobank and Alpha Bank will unveil a merger deal, sources told Reuters, with Qatar, the second biggest shareholder in Alpha Bank, set to add more capital to the combination.

The Greek stock market rose more than 11 percent in response and Greek banks jumped 30 percent. U.S.-listed shares of National Bank of Greece soared 31.7 percent to $1.10 in premarket trade. European shares rose nearly 1 percent.

Hurricane Irene caused between $200 million and $400 million in insured losses in the Carolinas, according to catastrophe modeling company EQECAT, suggesting the storm was far less severe than the insurance industry feared.

Shares of insurance companies were in the spotlight. Travelers Cos Inc rose 1.4 percent to $48.97 in thin trading premarket.

S&P 500 futures rose 11.9 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 92 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures put on 19 points.

Investors appeared to brush aside a call by the new head of the International Monetary Fund for global policymakers to pursue urgent action to prevent another recession, including forcing European banks to bulk up their capital.

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde called for a mandatory substantial recapitalization, through private channels if possible, but otherwise through some form of public, Europe-wide funding, such as the European Financial Stability Facility.

On the macro side, investors awaited monthly personal income and consumption data at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), and pending home sales for July at 10:00 a.m. EDT. (1400 GMT)

Economists in a Reuters survey expected an increase of 0.3 percent for personal income for July, compared with a 0.1 percent rise in the previous month.

Also, pending home sales fell 1.3 percent in July, compared with an increase of 2.4 percent in the previous month, economists predicted.

The dollar fell against a basket of major currencies on Monday, with traders speculating the U.S. Federal Reserve may offer more stimulus next month in the face of an uncertain growth outlook.

On Friday, Wall Street stocks posted their first weekly gain in more than a month as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke raised hopes for more stimulus for the economy.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)