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Futures Rise Slightly in Low Volume

U.S. stock market futures pointed to a slightly higher open for Wall Street as many investors were still away and with thin trading in Europe and Asia.

Oil prices rose on worries over regional stability as Israeli warplanes pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for a third consecutive day Monday and prepared for a possible invasion.

Israel said it launched the campaign in response to almost daily rocket and mortar fire that intensified after Hamas ended a six-month ceasefire a week ago.

The boost in oil prices of more than $2 a barrel helped energy-related shares, with Dow component ExxonMobil gaining more than 1 percent in premarket trading.

In corporate news, Kuwait decided to scrap a deal to form a $17.4 billion petrochemical joint venture with Dow Chemical, dealing it a heavy blow as Dow had planned to use the proceeds to repay a large part of $13 billion in debt once its acquisition of rival Rohm & Haas closes next year.

Dow Chemical shares were off more than 9 percent premarket, while Rohm & Hass tumbled nearly 19 percent.

Bad news continued to trickle in Europe, especially in the banking and housing sectors.

Belgian banking and insurance group KBC expects a quarterly loss of 900 million euros ($1.28 billion) on credit portfolio writedowns, after Moody's Investors Service cut ratings, triggering a charge of 600 million euros and warning of a future charge of 300 million euros.

And in the real estate sector, housing prices in England and Wales fell 8.7 percent in 2008, bringing the average price of a house to 159,900 pounds ($235,800), according to a monthly survey by property consultant Hometrack.

European shares advanced in early trade, led by energy and metals stocks that tracked firmer commodity prices, while Asian stocks closed mixed, with Japan managing to edge up in the green.