Futures soared, pointing to a sharply higher open on the first trading day of the New Year as investors were encouraged by a manufacturing report from China.
Last week, the Dow finished higher for 2011, while the S&P erased its gains to close out largely flat and the Nasdaq ended in negative territory.
Worries over the European debt crisis, which dictated the wild market swings for most of the year are expected to continue.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron all warned of a difficult year ahead in their New Year messages to their respective nations. Despite the arrival of 2012 heralding the tenth anniversary of the single currency 's coming into circulation, there were no celebrations to mark the birth of the euro coins and notes.
Meanwhile, euro zone manufacturing activity declined for a fifth consecutive month in December, although at a slightly slower rate than November's 28-month record low, a survey showed on Monday, suggesting the decline would continue in the early months of 2012.