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Futures Point to Flat Open Amid Global Fears

Futures pointed to a flat open following three days of gains Monday, though developments in Japan, Libya and the Middle East kept alive the potential for volatile trading.

Wall Street advanced for a third straight day Friday, but global uncertainty kept investors cautious and oil prices high.

In the day's economic news, U.S. consumer spending rose slightly more than expected in February for the eighth straight month of gains as households tapped their savings, according to government data, while inflation accelerated at its fastest pace since June 2009.

The Commerce Department said spending rose 0.7 percent after an upwardly revised 0.3 percent gain in January.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, to advance 0.6 percent in February after a previously reported 0.2 percent rise.

In Libya, rebels pushed west over the weekend to retake a series of towns from the forces of Muammar Gaddafi who have been pounded by Western air strikes, while in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad deployed the army in the country's main port of Latakia for the first time after nearly two weeks of protests spread across the country.

President Obama will make a national televised address Monday eveningat 7:30 pm ET to defend U.S. participation in NATO mission in Libya. (CNBC.com will be streaming the event live.)

NATO on Sunday assumed full responsibility for military operations in Libya, ending uncertainty about who would lead the effort.

Japanese stocks fell Monday after the country was rocked by yet another 6.5 magnitude earthquake and fears over high levels of radiation at the crippled Fukushima reactor.

Wal-Mart Stores will re-open 12 stores of its Seiyu stores in Japanwhich were affected by the earthquake, and is hoping to re-open the remaining 12 stores as soon as possible, according to a spokesman for the retailer.

Meanwhile Deutsche Securities cut its forecasts for , Nissan , Honda and other Japanese automakers.

Robert W. Baird upgraded a number of telecom companies to "outperform," including Dow components AT&T and Verizon , saying AT&T's deal to buy T-Mobile would help stabilize the hyper-competitive industry.

Shares of Nokia gained in premarket trading as Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to "buy," citing the handset maker's long-term growth potential.

Eastman Kodak surged in premarket trading after a U.S. trade panel agreed to review the company's claim that Research In Motion and Apple are infringing on Kodak's patents.

Later, the National Association of Realtors releases pending home sales for February at 10 am ET. Economists in a briefing.com survey expect a 0.3 percent rise compared with a 2.8 percent decline in January.

Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart speaks at 12:40 pm. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren also speak on Monday.

In the second half of the week, investors will shift their focus to the March jobs report, a very closely-watched economic indicator, which is due out Friday.

On Tap Next Week:

MONDAY: Pending home sales, two-year Treasury note auction; Lockhart speaks, Evans speaks.
TUESDAY: S&P Case-Shiller home price index, consumer confidence, five-year Treasury note auction, FDIC meeting on mortgage rules; Earnings from Lennar before-the-bell; Bullard speaks. WEDNESDAY: Mortgage applications, Challenger job-cut report, ADP employment report, oil inventories, seven-year Tresaury note auction, farm prices, Wal-Mart international investor conference; Earnings from Family Dollar before-the-bell and Mosaic after-the-bell; Bullard and Hoenig speak.
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims, Chicago PMI, factory orders, money supply; Lacker speaks, Tarullo speaks.
FRIDAY: Auto sales, nonfarm payroll report, ISM manufacturing index, construction spending; Plosser speaks.

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