NEW YORK (

TheStreet

) -- U.S. stock futures pointed to a higher open Monday after Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke's speech last week extended investors' hopes for further stimulus, and as investors evaluated the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Futures for the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

were up by 122 points, or 132.46 points above fair value at 11,269. Futures for the

S&P 500

were up by 14.4 points, or 15.20 points above fair value, at 1175, and

Nasdaq

futures were rising by 25 points, or 28 points above fair value at 2162.

Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast but largely spared New York City. Major U.S. exchanges will all be open as normal for trading. However, workers from the outlying regions of New York are expected to face challenges commuting into the city, which could result in thinner trading volume.

Sam Stovall, investment strategist at Standard & Poor's Equity Research, writes that while natural disasters can boost regional economies as businesses rebuild, "equity prices are more likely to be driven by wider-reaching national events."

The market closed last week with a rally despite a lack of new monetary action from Ben Bernanke in his Jackson Hole, Wyo. speech. With the Dow and S&P 500 advancing more than 1% and the Nasdaq surging 2.5% Friday, major averages were able to post their largest weekly gain in two months. Investors cheered Bernanke's call for politicians in both the U.S. and Europe to take fiscal action in address economic problems in their respective regions.

Bernanke's speech, however, added to the growing concern that central bankers are running out of tools to help ward off a potential recession in the U.S. and Europe. International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde warned of a "dangerous new phase" in Europe's debt crisis. Lagarde's stark assessment amid a lack of far-reaching fiscal plan in Europe is expected to keep worries about a potential debt contagion alive.

Adding to the latest euro concerns is Finland, which has demanded that Greece cough up collateral as part of its latest bailout aid. Domestic disputes threaten the parliamentary approval needed from Finland before Greece can receive extended funds.

In merger news this morning, a deal between Alpha Bank and Eurobank has sent a signal of confidence in the Greek economy. Greek bank shares including National Bank of Greece were rising.

The FTSE in London was little changed and the DAX in Frankfurt was gaining 1.5%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.44% while Japan's Nikkei added 0.6%.

In the U.S., investors are looking ahead to the government's highly anticipated monthly job report on Friday. Economists are expecting some 100,000 jobs added in August after gains of 117,000 in July. Briefing.com is expecting the unemployment rate to tick up to 9.2% from 9.1% in July.

Auto sales helped increase personal spending for July, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis this morning. Spending was up 0.8%, exceeding economists' expectations, and reversing the prior month's decrease of 0.2%. Meanwhile, incomes rose 0.3% after an increase of 0.2% in June.

Shares of many insurers are expected to rise after trading lower last week as the market braced for Hurricane Irene. Insurers such as

Chubb

(CB) - Get Report

and

Allstate

(ALL) - Get Report

as well as airline companies are expected to be in focus after Irene's downgrade to tropical storm status was met with relief by investors. The hurricane inflicted a total of $7 billion in damage according to Kinetic Analysis Corporation.

Merger news included

AuRico Gold's

(AUQ)

acquisition of

Northgate Minerals

( NXG) for $1.48 billion. Northgate Minerals shares were surging 48.3% to $4.67 in premarket trading Monday and AuRico shares were falling 0.9% to $13.80.

Wells Fargo

(WFC) - Get Report

,

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

and Lone Star Funds are the winners of the bids for a $9.5 billion pool of U.S. commercial real estate loans sold by

Anglo Irish Bank,

according to Reuters. Wells Fargo shares were advancing 1.3% to $24.90 and JPMorgan shares were adding 1.4% to $36.70.

In corporate news,

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

and

Pfizer's

(PFE) - Get Report

apixaban drug

has shown promise

in preventing strokes in a clinical study, the companies said. Separately, Pfizer's lung-tumor fighting drug, Crizotinib, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer shares were gaining 2.4% to $18.64 and Bristol shares were rising 1% to $29.

Sinopec, or

China Petroleum & Chemical

(SNP) - Get Report

, reported a 12% rise in its net earnings for the first half of 2011. However, the company reported a 12.2 billion renminbi operating

loss

in its refining business and has said that the rest of its year "is likely to be marked by turbulence in the international financial markets, bringing uncertainty to the global economic recovery."

The October crude oil contract was gaining $1.95 to trade at $87.32 a barrel. Elsewhere in commodity markets, gold for December delivery was gaining $18.70 to trade at $1,816 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was losing 17/32, pushing the yield to 2.26%. The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies, with the dollar index down by 0.13%.

.

-- Written by Chao Deng in New York

.