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Strong Caterpillar earnings provide lift on Wall Street

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a gently positive open on Wall Street on Monday, ahead of the busiest week of fourth quarter earnings season.

The markets got a boost from stronger-than-expected earnings from Dow component Caterpillar.

(Read more: Caterpillar earnings soar passed expectations)

Over 130 S&P 500 companies will report this week, including Royal Caribbean before the bell Monday and Apple after the market closes.

(Apple preview: What investors and traders expect on Monday)

According to Deutsche Bank, about three quarters of S&P companies have beaten earnings per share (EPS) consensus estimates so far, and over two-thirds have topped sales estimates.

Meanwhile, economic data out on Monday includes new home sales for December, due at 10 a.m. ET.

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However, the market's main focus will be on the Federal Reserve's monthly policy meeting, which starts on Tuesday. This will be the last to be chaired by outgoing Chairman Ben Bernanke, and attention will focus on whether he announces another $10 billion tapering off of the central bank's regular bond purchases.

(Read more: What the Fed will mean for markets this week)

"In the absence of a significant intensification of global market turmoil, we do not expect Bernanke to provide any major surprise at the conclusion of its meeting on Wednesday, likely announcing a further $10 billion reduction in the Fed's monthly asset purchases," said Daiwa Europe's Emily Nicol in a research note on Monday.

In stock news, U.S. cable group Liberty Global agreed to buy Dutch operator Ziggo for 10 billion euros ($13.7 billion). Frankfurt-listed shares of Liberty traded 2.6 percent down.

Plus, technology heavyweights Google and Samsung bolstered their alliance through a patent licensing agreement, in the face of intensifying intellectual property battles with smartphone rivals such as Apple. Frankfurt-listed shares of Google traded nearly 1 percent lower early on Monday, while Apple shares were around 0.1 percent down.

(Read more: Samsung, Google strike patent cross-licensing deal)

—By CNBC's Katy Barnato

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