US stocks gear up for the year's first full week of trading
U.S. stock-index futures indicated a slightly higher opening for the first full week of trading in 2014, after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Friday said the U.S. economy should continue to improve and reiterated the Fed's commitment to keep interest rates low.
European and Asian markets traded lower on Monday following disappointing data from China. Growth in the country's services sector slowed sharply in December to its lowest point since August 2011, a private sector survey showed, adding to signs of slowing momentum in the world's second-largest economy.
Elsewhere, the euro zone's economic recovery showed signs of increased strength Monday as services and manufacturing activity in the region expanded in December, according to data from analysis firm Markit.
The U.S. Senate will start its 2014 session Monday and looks likely to approve Janet Yellen as the next U.S. Federal Reserve chairman at 5:30 pm Eastern, replacing Ben Bernanke, who ends his eight-year term on Jan. 31.
The minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee's last session will be released on Wednesday, with all eyes on how the Fed will proceed after last month's tapering of its bond-buying program.
"The key focus of the minutes," wrote Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid in a morning note, "will be to discern whether meeting participants viewed the first tapering move as the beginning of a steady sequence of purchase reductions which should continue over the next several meetings, or whether they are leaning toward a more tentative approach."
Investors will also be looking at statements from Fed committee members John Williams, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank and James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, who are scheduled to speak on U.S. economy on Tuesday and Friday respectively. Friday will also see the latest employment report.
On Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern, the ISM non-manufacturing and factory orders data will be released.