U.S. stocks were set for a higher open on Monday as returning investors bet a 2010 rally would continue in the new year and Chinese factory inflation data tempered concerns over increased monetary tightening.
Investors awaited the Institute of Supply Management's manufacturing survey, due at 10 a.m. EST, for fresh evidence on the health of the economy. Economists polled by Reuters forecast the ISM's high-profile measure of U.S. factory activity edging higher to 57 from 56.6.
The official Chinese purchasing managers' index edged down in December and fell short of forecasts, easing concerns that rising inflation would lead the government to take more steps to control growth.
The bigger fear is that they were going to overdo it on the tightening side, that they were going to slow the economy too much, said Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald & Co in San Francisco.
If you get a little bit of a slowdown, a little bit of a disappointment and it conjures up the idea they are not going to start raising rates at the end, you would rather have a little bit of a slowdown than an overaggressive action.
Pado also pointed to a January effect boosting U.S. stocks as fund managers are no longer engaged in window dressing and focus on stocks they find attractive versus names that have done well for the year.
S&P 500 futures gained 9.7 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 jumped 80 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 23.5 points.
U.S. stocks ended the year with double-digit gains, with the S&P 500 <.SPX> recording its best December since 1991. The gains marked a recovery to levels before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. For the year, the S&P rose 12.8 percent, the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> climbed 11 percent, and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> surged 16.9 percent.
From its July low the S&P has risen 23 percent, boosted by improving economic data, positive earnings reports and stimulus measures by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Investors returning from the holidays will closely watch a host of economic data this week for signs of improvement in the economy to justify the gains.
Other data expected at 10 a.m. EST includes construction spending for November, seen showing an increase of 0.2 percent, according to forecasts.
Bank of America Corp
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)