The US bourse is set to open higher as European leaders get ready to meet.

New York - US stocks Monday opened higher following a controversial weekend referendum vote in eastern Ukraine to declare independence and ahead of key economic data releases later in the week.

Five minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 77.68 points (0.47 percent) to 16,661.02.

The broad-based S&P 500 rose 9.15 (0.49 percent) to 1,887.63, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 26.18 (0.64percent) to 4,098.05.

On Sunday, pro-Russian rebels claimed voters in eastern Ukraine massively backed independence in a disputed poll that Kiev and the West dismissed as an illegal “farce.”

Meanwhile, investors were looking ahead to US economic releases later in the week, including retail sales and housing starts.

Patrick O'Hare, analyst at, said economic reports that cover April and May will be especially important because the “winter weather excuse is no longer valid” for those months.

Markets have shrugged off some weak data from the opening months of 2014 as the result of unusually severe winter weather that depressed activity. - Sapa-AFP