Futures Rise as Final Holiday Trading Begins

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street Monday, as Wall Street begins the first of two consecutive holiday-shortened trading weeks.

Those two weeks will determine whether December will be a positive or negative month for stocks, but annual percentage gains for the major averages are all but certain heading into the final two weeks of 2009.

In a big M&A deal, Paris-based Sanofi Aventis said it will acquire Chattem in 2010 for $1.9 billion in cash, an acquisition expected to create the world's fifth-largest healthcare company.

Sanofi shares were flat to slightly lower in premarket trading but Chattem jumped nearly 33 percent to reflect the premium offered in the $93.50-a-share deal.

Another deal over the weekend saw Bucyrus International agree to buy the mining unit of Terex for $1.3 billion. The deal will allow Terex to ask for $300 million worth of Bucyrus shares. Bucyrus shares advanced 8 percent premarket while Terex rose 11 percent.

Positive earnings news also helped boost investor spirits, with drugstore chain Walgreen reporting a quarterly profit gain of 20 percent that beat Wall Street estimates. Shares rose more than 3 percent premarket.

Food maker ConAgra also beat analyst estimates as it said sales of of its products were helped by more people eating at home. Shares rose nearly 3 percent premarket.

After the bell, Jabil Circuit is set to report its quarterly earnings.

Health care stocks will be worth watching, after the health care reform bill cleared a major procedural hurdle in the Senate overnight.

Though Republicans have vowed to delay the bill, it's likely to be passed by the end of the week, and it would then go onto a House/Senate conference for reconciliation.

Investors will be especially attuned to retail results for the final few days before Christmas, especially with the weekend blizzard in the Northeast cutting into what would have been busy holiday shopping traffic.

There could be some renewed interest in stocks like FedEx and UPS , with many shoppers having turned to online ordering after they couldn't make it out their front doors over the weekend.

Cell Therapeutics said European health regulators granted orphan status to its experimental drug pixantrone, which treats a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system. US-traded shares of the company rose 3.5 percent in premarket trading.

Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report
Winterizing Your Portfolio - A CNBC Special Report

Fertilizer maker Potash saw its shares gain about 2.8 percent premarket after Goldman Sachs added the company to its conviction buy list. Goldman also raised Potash competitor Mosaic to "buy" from "neutral," sending its shares up 3.5 percent.

General Motors has gotten some new expressions of interest for its Saab unit, potentially reviving a sale after GM said last week it would wind Saab down.

Though some important economic releases are on the schedule for later in the shortened trading week, none will be released Monday.

And while no Federal Reserve officials have scheduled appearances or speeches Monday, Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans will talk speak to CNBC in an exclusive interview at 10 am New York time.