* Weak Europe, China manufacturing data boosts stimulus hopes
* Fiat, Ford up after reporting rise in February sales
* Honeywell up after dropping United Tech bid
* Indexes up: Dow 0.48 pct, S&P 0.59 pct, Nasdaq 0.70 pct (Updates to open)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
March 1 (Reuters) - Wall Street was higher on Tuesday morning, led by financial stocks, as weak manufacturing data globally raised hopes of a further easing of monetary policies.
Manufacturing activity across much of Asia shrank in February, with China falling for a seventh straight month. In Europe, factory growth waned, dealing a further blow to policymakers who are struggling to stimulate their economies and spur inflation.
The downbeat data may sharpen the focus of officials from the world’s leading economies who said at the recent G20 meeting they needed to look beyond ultra-low rates and printing money to reanimate growth.
Data from the Institute for Supply Management is expected to show U.S. manufacturing activity steadied in February, with the national manufacturing index inching up to 48.5 from 48.2 in January. The report is due at 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).
The data will factor into the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision on further interest rate hikes this year.
While Fed Chair Janet Yellen has hinted at continuing with the central bank’s plan to raise rates gradually through the year, other policymakers are calling for a pause amid the turmoil in global financial markets and slowing global growth.
“We’re seeing this little rally from the last three weeks continue for now,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.
“You’ve got a notion the market has shifted back to the easy money trade. In the short term, that helps lift asset prices, but long term, that’s not good,” he cautioned.
At 9:39 a.m. ET (1439 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was up 79.71 points, or 0.48 percent, at 16,596.21.
The S&P 500 was up 11.41 points, or 0.59 percent, at 1,943.64 and the Nasdaq Composite index was up 31.71 points, or 0.7 percent, at 4,589.66.
Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 0.88 percent rise in the financials sector, which has been the worst performer this year.
Shares of Fiat rose 3.4 percent and those of Ford increased 4.2 percent after the automakers said U.S. sales rose in February.
GM was up 2.5 percent. Analysts expect overall U.S. auto sales rose 7-9 percent last month.
Honeywell rose 3.3 percent to $104.67 after the company dropped its bid for United Technologies. United Tech was down 4 percent at $92.87.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,304 to 401. On the Nasdaq, 1,667 issues rose and 482 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed three new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 26 new highs and 29 new lows. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza)