Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Monday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.43 percent, Dow Jones futures up 0.26 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.38 percent at 4:45 a.m. EST.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il died of a heart attack while on a train trip, state media reported on Monday, sparking immediate concern over who is in control of the reclusive state and its nuclear program.

Asian stocks dropped on the news, while European shares reversed early losses and edged higher in morning trade, halting a sharp 1-1/2 week sell-off, as investors bought up shares in sectors seen as defensive, such as Unilever and Telefonica .

A tax break for 160 million U.S. workers was in doubt on Monday in the face of strong opposition from Republicans in the House of Representatives who have rejected a two-month extension overwhelmingly approved by the Senate over the weekend.

Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, an investor in some of the world's top companies, on Monday unveiled a $300 million stake purchase in fast-growing microblogging site Twitter, gaining another foothold in the global media industry.

Procter & Gamble Co
, the world's largest maker of household products, has halted full-time hiring for this fiscal year, a company spokeswoman said, confirming an earlier report.

Talks over potential asset sales as part of AT&T Inc's efforts to get approval of its $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA have gone cold, according to The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

On the macro side, investors awaited the National Association of Home Builders' December housing market index.

A rally in U.S. stocks fizzled, leaving major indexes with modest gains on Friday, as Wall Street was torn between hope that U.S. economic data signals better times ahead and fear Europe's debt crisis will engulf world economies.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 2.42 points, or 0.02 percent, at 11,866.39. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was up 3.91 points, or 0.32 percent, at 1,219.66. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 14.32 points, or 0.56 percent, at 2,555.33.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)