The U.S. stock index futures point to a slightly higher open Monday as investors maintained caution ahead of the outcome of the Italian elections.
The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.09 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.12 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.23 percent.
Market participants opted for caution before the final outcome of the Italian elections as the results are set to have a major impact on the euro zone's financial recovery efforts. Voting ends at 14:00 GMT (9:00 EST) Monday and official results are unlikely to be available before Monday night or early Tuesday. But early exit polls and projections will start coming out before the U.S. markets open and could spark an initial market reaction.
Opinion polls published before a pre-vote blackout suggested that the centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani could secure a narrow victory. But analysts have cast doubt on whether he will be able to form a government after the election.
“A clear victory of the centre-left coalition led by Bersani would likely be the most market-friendly outcome. On the other hand, a hung parliament or another situation leading to political instability and a slowdown in the reform momentum would likely lead to a widening in sovereign spreads as well as negative implications for business confidence and the economy,” a note from Credit Agricole said.
The U.S. stock markets ended with gains Friday as sentiment was buoyed following better-than-expected economic data from Germany and encouraging earnings from Dow component Hewlett-Packard (HPQ). Hewlett-Packard shares rallied 12 percent after the company reported better-than-expected first quarter results.
European stock markets were trading higher despite Italian election uncertainty, amid speculation that Bank of Japan (BOJ) could get a new governor, who is known to be in favor of aggressive monetary easing. London's FTSE 100 surged 1.34 percent, France's CAC-40 gained 0.50 percent and Germany's DAX gained 0.93 percent.
Asian stock markets advanced Monday, led by gains in Japanese shares after media reports suggested that the Japanese government is likely to nominate Haruhiko Kuroda, present governor for Asia Development Bank and an aggressive advocate of monetary easing policy, as the next BOJ governor.
Japan’s Nikkei climbed 2.43 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.17 percent and the Chinese Shanghai Composite advanced 0.50 percent, while India’s BSE Sensex rose 0.25 percent.
Meanwhile, a private sector report showed that Chinese factory activity grew at a slower rate in February. The HSBC Flash Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), a measure of the nation-wide manufacturing, declined to a four-month low of 50.4 in February from January's final reading of 52.3.