Stocks: Optimism amid turmoil

@CNNMoneyInvest December 19, 2011: 8:58 AM ET

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks pointed to a tepid open Monday, as investors wade through news overseas of Kim Jong Il's death and await developments out of Europe.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU), S&P 500 (SPX) and Nasdaq (COMP) futures were higher ahead of the opening bell. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Asia markets tumbled on Monday, after news of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death broke. The enigmatic leader, who succeeded his father 17 years ago, suffered from a heart attack, according to a state media report.

Fears of the eurozone debt crisis and potential credit downgrades also weighed on investors Monday.

European finance ministers will discuss the draft of a new eurozone "fiscal compact" during a conference call Monday morning. The fiscal plan is to be finalized by the end of January, according to European Union officials.

Europe on downgrade watch

Trading volume for U.S. markets is expected to be low, with many investors "tidying up positions," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott. But that could make for a volatile day, since low trading volume tends to exaggerate swings in the market.

Stocks ended Friday mixed, after a roller-coaster week in which all three indexes each lost more than 2.5%. Part of the sell off came after Fitch put seven European countries on credit watch negative, citing the higher probability that it could downgrade these nations in the next few months.

But investors breathed a sigh of relief that France, in particular, retained its pristine AAA rating. Fitch also affirmed the ratings of Belgium, Spain, Slovenia, Italy, Ireland and Cyprus, while putting them on review for potential near-term downgrades Friday after the European markets closed.

World markets: European stocks were slightly higher in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100 (UKX) edged up 0.2%, the DAX (DAX) in Germany added 1.2% and France's CAC 40 (CAC40) rose 1%.

Asian markets ended lower, amid fears the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il could lead to instability on the divided Korean peninsular. The Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) shed 0.3%, the Hang Seng (HSI) in Hong Kong dropped 1.2% and Japan's Nikkei (N225) fell 1.3%.

Companies: Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and his investment company, Kingdom Holding Company, announced a combined investment of $300 million in Twitter, a social media website.

Shares of Winn Dixie (WINN, Fortune 500) fell nearly 6%, after the food retailer agreed to merge with Bi-Lo to create an organization of 690 grocery stores throughout the U.S. Bi-Lo will acquire the outstanding Winn Dixie shares.

Research in Motion (RIMM) shares fell slightly in premarkets, after the BlackBerry maker offered a disappointing outlook for the current quarter and next year in releasing its earnings results.

Shares of Zynga (ZNGA) rose 10% in their public debut on the Nasdaq Friday, before closing the day down 5% from the firm's IPO price. The maker of popular Facebook game FarmVille priced shares at $10 apiece in the its initial public offering late Thursday.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar gained strength against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.

Oil for January delivery rose 48 cents to $94.01 a barrel.

Gold futures for February delivery fell $2.40 to $1,595.50 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury was little changed, with the yield holding steady at 1.85% from late Friday.  To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 30,932.37 -469.64 -1.50%
Nasdaq 13,192.34 72.96 0.56%
S&P 500 3,811.15 -18.19 -0.48%
Treasuries 1.46 -0.06 -3.82%
Data as of 9:17pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 8.29 0.05 0.61%
Advanced Micro Devic... 54.59 0.70 1.30%
Cisco Systems Inc 47.49 -2.44 -4.89%
General Electric Co 13.00 -0.16 -1.22%
Kraft Heinz Co 27.84 -2.20 -7.32%
Data as of 2:44pm ET
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.80%3.88%
15 yr fixed3.20%3.23%
5/1 ARM3.84%3.88%
30 yr refi3.82%3.93%
15 yr refi3.20%3.23%
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