US stocks opened higher in early trade on Monday, with S&P 500 Index gaining 7.54 points, or 0.57 percent, to trade at 1,326.97 at 09:55 a.m. EST. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 76.82 points, or 0.63 percent, to trade at 12,207.27. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.49 percent to trade at 2,795.40.

On the macro front, a report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis showed that personal spending rose 0.2 percent in January, the smallest gain since June, compared to 0.5 percent growth in the previous month. Personal income rose 1.00 percent, the largest gain since May 2009, versus 0.4 growth in December. Economists expected that personal income and personal spending rose 0.4 percent each in January.

The Chicago Purchasing Managers reported the Chicago business barometer grew to 71.2, its highest level since July 1988, versus 68.8 last month, indicating expansion for the seventeenth consecutive month. Economists expected the business barometer to edge down to 68.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said in an interview on CNBC that the economy is in good shape for 2011 and it is definitely doing better than it was last summer and fall.

On the impact of Middle East unrest and rising oil prices, Bullard said should concerns about oil supplies from the region wane in the next few weeks, this will go away.

In deal news, Ventas Inc. (NYSE: VTR) said it agreed to acquire Nationwide Health Properties Inc. (NYSE :NHP) for $7.4 billion or $44.99 a share in stock, creating one of the largest publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) in the United States.

Stocks climbed on Friday, reversing a three-day sell-off on the deepening Libyan crisis, as oil prices appeared to have stabilized after Saudi Arabia increased its oil output.

On the currency front, the euro strenghtened 0.60 percent to 1.3838 against the dollar and the greenback gained 0.20 percent against the yen to 81.8445.

Crude oil futures fell 0.36 percent to $97.53/barrel while gold futures edged up 0.07 percent.

European stock markets are currently trading higher with U.K. FTSE 100 up by 10.72 points, German DAX30 up by 96.69 points and French CAC 40 up by 45.92 points.