US stocks advanced in early trade on Tuesday, the first trading day of March, after markets recorded third consecutive monthly gains in February.

The S&P 500 Index gained 3.08 points, or 0.23 percent, to trade at 1,330.57 at 9:40 a.m. EDT. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 28.15 points, or 0.23 percent, to trade at 12,254.49. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.07 percent.

For the whole month of February, the Dow rose 2.8 percent; the S&P added 3.2 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 3 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee in Washington at 10:00 am EDT, where Bernanke is expected to remain cautious about the outlook for the US economy despite recent data pointing to improvement.

ISM manufacturing index for the month of February will be released at 10:00 am EDT and expected to show a slight deterioration in activity. Economists are forecasting that ISM manufacturing index for the month of February will be 60.50 against 60.80 in the previous month.

On the corporate front, AutoZone Inc. (NYSE:AZO) shares gained 2.48 percent after the company reported second quarter net income of $148.06 million or $3.34 per share from $123.33 million or $2.46 per share in the same quarter last year. Net sales rose 10.3 percent to $1.66 billion.

Shares of Sonus Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:SONS) climbed 25.41 percent as it guided fiscal 2011 revenue above Street view. The company expects fiscal 2011 revenue of $265 million to $285 million, while Street predicts $257.44 million.

The euro gained 0.25 percent to 1.3841 against the dollar and the yen gained 0.43 percent against the greenback.

Crude oil futures gained 0.85 percent to $97.82/barrel and gold futures advanced 0.88 percent.

European stock markets are currently trading higher with FTSE 100 up by 0.06 points, DAX30 up by 38.47 points and CAC 40 up by 9.74 points.