* On the first trading day of the year, investors awaited data on November construction spending data and December ISM manufacturing, which could provide clues into how strongly the recovery is taking hold.
* Russia had halted supplies to Belarussian refineries after failing to resolve a pricing dispute, but on Monday, the Belarus state oil firm said Russian oil was flowing normally to European Union customers via Belarus. February crude futures shot up 2 percent to a two-month high.
* Also helping commodities was the U.S. dollar, which fell 0.4 percent against a basket of currencies <.DXY>.
* Switzerland's Novartis AG plans to buy the rest of Alcon Inc that it doesn't own after agreeing to acquire a majority stake from Nestle .
* U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Sunday that vigorous financial regulations would have been the best way to restrain the housing bubble that helped cause the deep recession, but said policymakers can no longer rule out monetary policy to curb the buildup of risk.
* S&P 500 futures rose 7.1 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 added 59 points and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 21.75 points.
* Airline stocks will be in focus after Japan Airlines Corp <9205.T> shares jumped 31 percent in Tokyo Monday. The Japanese government looked to secure funds to prevent the carrier from running out of cash as it awaits a possible bailout.
* Japan's Nikkei index <.N225> rose 1 percent to hit a 15-month closing high Monday, with a weaker yen lifting exporters such as Kyocera Corp <6971.T>. European stocks were broadly higher Monday morning, with drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline Plc and AstraZeneca Plc rising after the Novartis move on Alcon fueled consolidation hopes in the sector.
* U.S. markets were closed Friday for New Year's Day. On Thursday, stocks fell, with the three major indexes down about 1 percent. For 2009, the Dow gained 19 percent, the S&P rose 24 percent, and the Nasdaq added 44 percent.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)