Stocks look set for a strong opening this morning, but nobody knows how strong the wind will blow.

At 8:59 a.m. EDT, the

S&P 500 futures

were up 12.4 points, about 11 points above fair value, indicating some buying sentiment in the early going. The

Nasdaq 100

futures had been climbing steadily all morning and were 73 points higher, indicating relatively strong buying interest for large-cap tech stocks at the open.

The market may be trying to follow through on its late Friday afternoon rally, which left both the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

and the

Nasdaq Composite Index

just below previous closings that day. But whether this week will be like last week, when pre-open rallies quickly lost steam after the bell and the market jockeyed through wild gyrations on anemic volume, remains to be seen.

"Europe is doing better, and futures are up, so I guess we're looking for firmer opening, but its anybody's guess as to which way this market will go," said Peter Coolidge, managing director of trading at

Brean Murray Foster Securities

.

"There may be a little bit of bounce because of relative weakness last week," he added. "After this initial bounce, its a case of 'then what?' We're not expecting much."

An attempt to locate a bottom was one force driving last week's madness. Some say there are signs the market has capitulated, citing recent declines in some of the real Nasdaq stalwarts, like

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

. For more on this, see Justin Lahart's recent

story.

The other force driving volatility is the interest-rate guessing game, as Wall Street attempts to price in relatively mixed expectations for the

Federal Reserve's

rate-hike plans for the rest of the year. Some economists and strategists are forecasting that the

Federal Open Market Committee

will hold off at the June meeting and wait to raise rates more until it knows for sure whether recent rate increases have slowed the economy. Others wonder if the Fed has time to hold off. The FOMC last raised rates at its May 16 meeting by 50 basis points to 6.5%.

So, investors will continue to watch economic data closely ahead of the FOMC's mid-June meeting. Today at 10:00 a.m. EDT, the

Conference Board

will release the

Consumer Confidence Index

for May, forecast at 136.2 compared with a previous figure of 136.9, though this shouldn't have a big impact on the market.

Later this week, there is some more important data, with the May

Purchasing Manager's Index

out on Thursday and the May

Employment Report

on Friday. Though the NAPM will give some indication as to what kind of pricing pressure companies are seeing, the jobs report will be the thing to watch closely.

In merger and acquisition news that could move the market,

Lucent

(LU)

is in talks to buy privately held

Chromatis

, while

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

is forming an Internet exchange with 10 major telecom and Internet providers.

The Treasury market was edging lower, and the 10-year note was off 6/32 at 101 1/32 and yielding 6.352%.

The large European bourses were

soaring by midsession, partly fueled by news that

France Telecom

(FTE)

was buying

Orange

for $37 billion after the Mannesmann deal forced

Vodafone AirTouch

(VOD) - Get Report

to sell the mobile telephone subsidiary. The Paris

CAC 40

was up 99.64 to 6304.77, while Frankfurt's

Xetra Dax

up 112.68 to 7129.34.

Across the channel, London's

FTSE

was 131.4 higher to 6348.3.

The euro was trading up at $0.9349.

Asian markets were sluggish overnight as they waited on U.S. markets to return from their Memorial Day holiday, and most bourses closed relatively flat.

Korea's

Kospi

saw the biggest percent rise in the region, up 35.33 points, or 5.4%, to 691.26, while Taiwan's

TWSE

index climbed 176.17 points, or 2.05%, to 8764.42.

After a 42-minute failure on the Hong Kong exchange's automatic trading system, but no delay in the expiry of May futures, the benchmark

Hang Seng

index rose 15.83 points, or 0.1% to 13,990.90.

In Japan, the

Nikkei

index fell 16.54 points or 0.1% to 16,228.90.

In Tokyo currency trading, the dollar weakened to 106.885 yen. The greenback was lately continuing downward at 106.46 yen.

For a look at stocks in the pre-open news, see

Stocks to Watch, published separately.