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Futures Start 2010 Higher as Dollar Drops

Stock index futures pointed to a higher open for Wall Street in the first day of a new year that started with an old theme of dollar weakness boosting commodity prices as well as the broader market.

The US dollar index dropped nearly 0.5 percent in early trade as US light, sweet crude oil prices rumbled toward $81 a barrel and gold jumped past $1,100 an ounce.

Technology looked particularly strong, with the group's main barometer, the Nasdaq, set to open more than 1 percent higher.

European shares started the year higher, while Asian stocks closed mixed, eyeing economic data later in the week.

The economic calendar includes two reports to kick off the new year: the ISM's monthly manufacturing index is out at 10 am New York time, while the government releases construction spending for November at that same time. Economists see the ISM index coming in at 54.1, up slightly from November's 53.6 reading, while construction spending is seen as dropping 0.5% for November, compared to October's unchanged reading.

The earnings calendar is virtually empty today, but fourth quarter earnings season starts soon and likely will be a major influence in the markets in the weeks ahead.

In corporate news, Switzerland's Novartisis seeking to buy the portion of eye care product makerAlcon that it doesn't already own for $39.3 billion. The deal would involve acquiring a 52% stake in Alcon from Nestle.

The dispute over carriage of the Fox Networks has been resolved between Time Warner Cable and Fox parent News Corp., while customers of Cablevision remain without Food Network and HGTV, owned by Scripps, as those two parties continue a dispute over carriage rates.

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

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says the central bank must be open to rate hikes as a possible means of popping asset bubbles. Bernanke made his comments over the weekend in a speech to the American Economic Association's annual meeting.

New airport rules go into effect today, with passengers from a handful of countries being subjected to enhanced screening techniques. The TSA says this will be applied to anyone traveling from or through nations regarded as state sponsors of terrorism or "other countries of interest".

The Census Bureau kicks off its $300 million campaign to coax Americans to fill out their census forms, hoping to top the 67% response rate from the 2000 census.