NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were flat early Monday ahead of the latest meeting of "Merkozy" -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are meeting to discuss ways to boost growth as debt fears in the eurozone once again linger.

European stocks were higher, getting a boost from a rise in German exports.

Asian stocks finished higher Monday. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 2.9% to 2,225.89, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 1.5%. Markets in Japan were closed.

U.S. stocks finished last week, the first trading week of 2012, with solid gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Friday settled down 56 points, or 0.5%, to 12,360 but posted a gain of more than 1% for the week.

The S&P 500 dropped 3 points, or 0.3%, to 1,278, putting the index 1.6% ahead for the week. The Nasdaq tacked on 4 points, or 0.2%, to 2,674 on Friday, and posted a 2.7% gain for the week.

The economic calendar in the U.S. includes the Conference Board's employment trend index for December at 10 a.m. EST. The Federal Reserve is scheduled to issue consumer credit data at 3 p.m.

Alcoa ( AA) posts results after the closing bell Monday, marking the unofficial start to the earnings season.

The aluminum maker last week said its global smelting capacity will be reduced by 12% after the closure of certain plants. Alcoa said it would record fourth-quarter restructuring charges of $155 million to $165 million.

Analysts' expectations on Alcoa's results vary from a loss of 5 cents a share to a profit of 1 cent.

Bristol-Myers Squibb ( BMY) plans to acquire Inhibitex ( INHX) for $2.5 billion.

Bristol-Myers' all-cash tender offer values Inhibitex at $26 a share, or more than two-and-a-half times the company's closing stock price on Friday of $9.87.

For all that cash, Bristol-Myers gains control of Inhibitex's INX-189, a pill in phase II studies which has the potential to become a component in the first all-oral therapies against hepatitis C.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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