* S&P 500 coming off first weekly decline in eight
* Investors watching Italian elections, Fed policy
* Barnes & Noble rallies in premarket after WSJ report
* Futures up: Dow 39 pts, S&P 6.4 pts, Nasdaq 17.25 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Feb 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose
on Monday, suggesting the recent rally for equities remains
intact in spite of concerns that the U.S. Federal Reserve could
curtail its stimulus sooner than many expected.
* Stocks have been strong performers so far this year, with
the S&P 500 jumping 6.2 percent in 2013. Pullbacks have
generally been slight, with investors using any dip as a buying
opportunity. While the S&P fell last week, the decline was a
slight 0.3 percent and it was the first weekly drop after a
seven-week streak of gains.
* The gains have come on strong corporate earnings, as well
as a backdrop of stimulus from the Federal Reserve. Last week's
decline came when some Fed officials seemed to suggest the
stimulus may be curtailed faster than many expected, though
subsequent comments seemed to allay those concerns.
* Another test for equities will come with the looming
debate over massive U.S. government budget cuts that will take
effect if lawmakers fail to reach an agreement over spending and
taxes. On Sunday, the White House issued more dire warnings
about the harm the cuts are expected to do to the economy if
* More government-related uncertainty came from Italy, where
a close election left questions about how the country would
handle its three-year debt crisis. Last year, inconclusive Greek
elections sparked a protracted selloff and a period of
uncertainty in U.S. equity markets as well.
* Still, European shares were higher on Monday,
rising 0.6 percent after a smooth Italian debt auction.
* S&P 500 futures rose 6.4 points and were above fair
value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account
interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the
contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 39
points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 17.25 points.
* In company news, the Wall Street Journal reported that
Barnes & Noble Inc Chairman Leonard Riggio is
considering a bid for the company's bookstore business. The
stock jumped 18 percent to $16 in premarket trading.
* Lowe's Cos Inc reported earnings that beat
expectations, helped by rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Sandy
in the United States.
* Other companies scheduled to report quarterly results
include Autodesk Inc and FirstEnergy.
* Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are
estimated to have risen 6 percent, according to Thomson Reuters
data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings
* U.S. stocks closed higher on Friday, boosted by strong
results from Hewlett-Packard Co, as well as allayed
concerns over Fed policy.