Stock index futures rose on Monday as China's stronger trade figures stoked optimism in the global recovery and as investors anticipated a profitable earnings report from Alcoa Inc .

China ended 2009 with record monthly imports of crude oil and soybeans and a strong appetite for iron ore and copper, while its exports rose 17.7 percent year-over-year, dwarfing a forecast for a 4 percent rise.

That helped lift commodity prices and looked set to boost commodity related stocks. Shares in Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold Inc rose 2 percent to $89.84 in premarket trade.

Craig Peckham, equity trading strategist at Jefferies & Company in New York, said the Chinese data supported the idea that the global recovery would expand into 2010. What that translates to is continued asset allocation into equities, he said.

After the close on Monday, aluminum giant Alcoa is expected to post a profit of 5 cents per share, compared to a loss of 28 cents a year ago, in a report that traditionally marks the start of earnings season. Alcoa shares rose 2.5 percent to $17.45 in premarket trading.

S&P 500 futures gained 5.1 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 rose by 36 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 6.5 points.

Analysts' expectations for earnings have been rising heading into the reporting period, and plummeting profits a year ago are expected to make for an easy comparison.

We are heading for a nice, positive earnings season, and we'll probably see some top-line (revenue) growth, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.

U.S. crude oil futures rose $1 to $83.77 a barrel, while industrial base metals surged, with copper up almost 3 percent. The commodities' advance was also helped by a weaker U.S. dollar, which fell 0.6 percent against a basket of currencies.

Citigroup Inc upgraded Chevron Corp to buy from hold as it increased its long-term oil price assumption to $80 per barrel from $65. Citigroup said Chevron shares have the greatest sensitivity to a change in the oil price. The stock rose 1.1 percent to $80.33.

On Friday, the Dow and the S&P 500 rose to a new 15-month high, while the Nasdaq hit its highest level in 16 months.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)