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Futures gain after China data, but Syria worries weigh

Monday, 9 Sep 2013 | 8:58 AM ET

U.S. stock index futures were higher Monday, lifted by upbeat economic data from China, but ongoing worries over Syria kept a damper on gains.

China reported its exports grew by 7.2 percent in August, exceeding market expectations for a gain of 6 percent, while consumer inflation held steady.

But Syria will likely remain in focus as Congress returns from its summer recess. President Barack Obama will appear in several television interviews this week as he tries to persuade members of Congress to vote for a military strike, but he faces diplomatic pressure to wait for a United Nations report due later this week before taking action. Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held a news conference on Syria on Monday with U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague, during which Kerry said that "resolution" would not be found on a battlefield.

"If strikes are approved, geopolitical tensions will rise and financial markets will almost certainly be unsettled," said HSBC Chief Economist Stephen King in a research note on Sunday.

(Read more: Syria will fan flames of Sept. volatility)

Following a week where Treasury yields zipped to two-year highs and 10-year benchmark bonds broke the psychologically important 3 percent level, this week's Treasury auctions will also be in the spotlight.

Last week, U.S.non-farm payrolls increased by 169,000 in August, undershooting consensus estimates of 180,000, which will be a key consideration for the Federal Reserve next week, when it meets to debate when to start tapering off its asset purchasing program. The tapering debate continued over the weekend, when International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde told CNBC that the Fed could not afford to ignore emerging markets when it weighed up future policy.

(Read more: Why tapering doesn't mean QE is going away)

On Monday, San Francisco Fed President John Williams is schedule to speak at 11 am ET and consumer credit data for July will be reported at 3 pm ET.

Yum Brands said its sales in China fell by 10 percent in August. Still, shares of the parent company of Taco Bell and KFC edged higher after it said it expects sales growth to resume in China for the current quarter. Rival McDonald's is slated to report same-store sales on Tuesday.

Time Warner is planning to transfer its U.S. retirees from company-sponsored health plans to private insurance exchanges, according to a Reuters report.

(Read more: Companies sweating Obamacare tax)

Microsoft launched its Xbox Music streaming service for free on the Internet, in the hope of drawing in more customers.

Delta will join the S&P 500 index after the close of trading Tuesday, replacing BMC Software. BMC is being acquired by Bain Capital.

On Tap This Week:

MONDAY: Fed's Williams speaks, consumer credit, Congress returns
TUESDAY: Small business optimism index, McDonald's August sales, 3-yr note auction, Intel Developer Forum, Apple event
WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, wholesale trade, oil inventories, 10-yr note auction; Earnings from Men's Warehouse
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, import & export sales, natural gas inventories, 30-yr bond auction, Treasury budget, Fed's balance sheet/money supply, Dell shareholder vote; Earnings from Kroger, Lululemon, Ulta Salon
FRIDAY: PPI, retail sales, consumer sentiment, business inventories, Wal-Mart holiday layaway begins

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