Stocks: Wary mood as investors return

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Monday should be the first big trading day of the year as investors and traders return to work in numbers, but there's a wary mood in the markets.

U.S. stock futures were swinging between modest gains and losses ahead of the opening bell Monday, after a lackluster start to 2014. Stocks ended mixed last week and trading volume was anemic.

U.S. investors and traders will likely be cautious Monday as they await Friday's jobs report and other economic news later this week.

Coming up Wednesday will be the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's December meeting, when it announced plans to trim its monthly bond purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion beginning this month.

"Investors, I think, will stay on the sidelines until we get the Fed minutes out of the way," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital.

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Later Monday, the U.S. Senate is expected to confirm Janet Yellen to serve as the next chair of the Federal Reserve, after Ben Bernanke's second term ends in January.

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European markets were slightly higher in midday trading after the latest purchasing managers' survey showed the euro zone services sector lost some momentum in December.

Many Asian markets reopened after an extended holiday break Monday and pushed lower. Japan's Nikkei fell 2.4% over the course of the day, playing catch-up with other international markets that declined last week. Chinese stocks also dropped.

The latest report from HSBC on China's services sectors showed a slower rate of growth in December, adding to the downbeat tone.

Anti-government protests in Bangkok have inflamed fears that the turmoil could spread further in Asia, after the Thai stock index plunged 12% last month.

Related: Senate set to confirm Yellen as Fed Chair

On Friday, the Dow rose slightly while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished lower again, adding to Thursday's 1% declines.

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