Stocks: Syria still taking center stage

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Investors are firmly focused on the situation in Syria as Congress returns from recess Monday to vote on whether to authorize limited military strikes against the Middle Eastern nation.

U.S. stock futures edged higher, though the gains were muted.

For more than a week, President Obama has been trying to rally support for military action from members of Congress, and the broader domestic and international audience.

This has resulted in volatility in stock markets and oil prices as traders worry about the possible knock-on effects of a strike.

Markets are likely to be guided by developments in Syria with few major corporate or economic reports scheduled for release Monday.

"Over the rest of the week ahead, we have a typically quiet post-payrolls data docket in the U.S. but the focus will be on Congress as it officially returns from summer recess today," said Deutsche Bank analyst Gaël Gunubu, in a client note.

Hiring continued in August, but at a slower pace, which may signal the Federal Reserve will stand pat on its bond-buying program when it meets next week. The Fed has been consistently saying it will not begin tapering until it sees marked improvement in the labor market.

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U.S. stocks ended last week modestly higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.8%, the S&P 500 increased 1.4%, and the Nasdaq jumped nearly 2%.

Smithfield Foods (SFD) and China's Shuanghui International announced after the closing bell Friday that U.S. regulators had cleared Shuanghui's proposed acquisition of the American meat processor. Smithfield shares rose in after-hours trading.

Related: Investors await decision on Syria

European markets were mixed in morning trading, while Asian markets closed with healthy gains.

Japanese stocks hit a one-month high Monday as Tokyo's Olympic win and stronger-than-expected economic data gave investors a double-dose of good news.

In China, the Shanghai Composite index surged by 3.4% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose by 0.6%.

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