Stocks: Starting week on a high note

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Stocks were poised for a positive start to the week, taking a cue from Europe where investors cheered the formation of a new Italian government.

Expectations of a further rate cut from the European Central Bank and continued monetary support from the Federal Reserve later this week gave additional support to the market.

"The ECB meeting may be the most interesting event this week," wrote Marc Chandler, strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman. "The ECB indicated earlier this month that if economic data worsened, it was prepared to cut the refi rate."

U.S. stock futures were higher Monday.

Investors mulled reports on U.S. personal income and spending, which both rose 0.2% in March, according to the government. Personal income was expected to have increased 0.4% last month and personal spending was expected to have slipped 0.1%, according to a consensus of economist forecasts compiled by

On Friday, the government reported that the U.S. economy grew at an annual pace of 2.5% in the first quarter.

Stocks are on track to end April with gains this week, which would mark the fourth straight month of gains this year.

Consumer spending, which alone accounts for roughly two-thirds of GDP, rose at a 3.2% annual pace, the fastest pace since the end of 2010. But the data also shows that consumers funded that spending in part by saving less.

At 10 a.m. ET, the National Association of Realtors will release data on pending home sales.

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In corporate news, controversial supplements company Herbalife (HLF) and gun maker Sturm Ruger (RGR) are set to release their quarterly results after the close. Ruger's stock rose in premarket trading.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) announced Sunday that another of CEO Jamie Dimon's key executives, co-chief operating officer Frank Bisignano, is leaving the firm and will be replaced by Matt Zames.

U.S. stocks finished mixed Friday.

European markets were higher in morning trading after Enrico Letta was sworn in as Italy's prime minister, ending weeks of political deadlock and uncertainty in a country mired by recession.

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Greek lawmakers agreed to cut thousands of government jobs to secure another $11.5 billion in bailout funds.

Markets in Hong Kong added 0.1%. Exchanges in Shanghai and Tokyo were closed for a holiday.

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