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US STOCKS-Wall St set for slightly higher open; Fed speakers on tap

Angela Moon
Monday, 9 Dec 2013 | 9:11 AM ET

* Fed speakers include Lacker and Bullard

* Slower China inflation reduces worries of tighter policy

* McDonald's November restaurant sales miss estimates

* Futures: S&P up 3.2 pts; Dow up 9 pts; Nasdaq up 11.25 pts

NEW YORK, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set for a slightly higher open on Monday, supported by inflation data from China but gains were likely to be capped with a number of top Federal Reserve officials lined up to speak throughout the day.

Investors are closely eyeing speeches from Fed speakers, looking for clues on whether the strong jobs report on Friday could be a deciding factor for the Fed to start trimming its stimulus when its Federal Open Market Committee holds its next meeting on Dec. 17-18.

Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker will speak at an economic outlook conference in Charlotte, North Carolina at 12:30 a.m. ET (1730 GMT).

Later, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will deliver a speech on the economy in St. Louis, and Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher speaks in Chicago.

"Today's economic calendar is light, but several Federal Reserve officials are slated for speeches, keeping the debate over the Fed's tapering timeline alive and well," said Tony Venosa, senior options strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"Continue to watch round-number levels on the major indices, including the Dow at 16,000, the S&P 500 at 1,800, and the Nasdaq Composite at 4,000."

S&P 500 futures rose 3.2 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 added 9 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 11.25 points.

Futures gained some support from data that showed China's annual consumer inflation unexpectedly slowed in November, easing market fears of any imminent policy tightening as authorities meet this week to outline their policy and reform priorities for 2014.

The S&P 500 scored its best day in nearly a month on Friday following a robust jobs report that gave traders confidence the economic recovery was gaining strength. All 10 S&P sector indexes ended solidly higher in the broad rally.

The S&P 500 is up nearly 27 percent for the year and is on track for its biggest annual gain since 1998. But despite the strong rally, analysts say there is more room to the upside.

"There has been a sharp and consistent increase in equity exchange-traded fund activity since mid-August. In fact, over 60 percent of year-to-date net inflows have occurred in the past three months," said Jonathan Golub, chief U.S. market strategist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.

"We view this as a sign of confidence in the markets among professional investors and traders."

In company news, Sysco Corp jumped 24 percent in premarket trade after the food distributor said it would buy rival US Foods for about $3.5 billion and assume about $4.7 billion in debt to create a company with about $65 billion in annual revenue.

McDonald's Corp reported weaker-than-expected global sales at established restaurants for November, hurt by a sharp drop in comparable-store sales in the United States. The stock was down 0.9 percent in premarket trade.