Stock index futures signal early gains

By @ibtimes on

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Wall Street on Monday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.15 percent, Dow Jones futures up 0.16 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.17 percent at 5.32 a.m. EST.

Brent crude rose to $117 a barrel and U.S. oil was up nearly $2 a barrel at $106.24 as fighting in Libya disrupted its supplies, and on renewed concern of wider disruptions in the Middle East.

Over the weekend, troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi launched counter-offensives against rebel-held towns, increasing fears the country is heading for a civil war rather than the swift revolutions seen in Tunisia and Egypt.

OPEC is assessing the oil market to determine whether it should hold an extraordinary meeting, Qatar's Energy Minister said on Monday, but added there was no shortage of supply in the market.

In Saudi Arabia, authorities warned potential protesters that a ban on marches would be enforced, signaling the small protests by the Shi'ite minority in the oil-producing east would no longer be tolerated.

The U.S. government reiterated that it could tap its strategic oil reserves in order to safeguard economic growth as surging gasoline prices increase pressure for action.

Citigroup raised its price forecasts for Brent and WTI crude for 2011 and 2012 citing a stronger-than-expected first quarter and a fear premium through the year on threats of continued output disruptions.

On the M&A front, France's LVMH will take over Bulgari in a deal which values the Italian jeweler at 3.7 billion euros and gives the No.1 luxury group more clout in the sector and bigger exposure to emerging markets.

Japan's Nikkei average lost 1.8 percent on Monday, falling below a key support level, while European stocks were up 0.4 percent in morning trade, slightly rebounding after a two-week retreat, led by energy shares such as Total and BP .

Moody's slashed Greece's credit rating on Monday on fears the country's efforts to cut its debt will not be enough, heaping further pressure on EU leaders to ease repayment terms on its bailout loans or risk a default.

Wall Street erased most of its weekly gains on Friday as fears of more geopolitical turmoil and higher oil prices threaten to stifle rallies in coming weeks.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 88.32 points, or 0.72 percent, to 12,169.88. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 9.82 points, or 0.74 percent, at 1,321.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 14.07 points, or 0.50 percent, at 2,784.67.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Hans Peters)

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