Stocks Broadly Higher as String of Deals Lift Investor Sentiment; Crude Oil Surges


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Stocks are sharply higher in mid-day trading as deal news prompts investors to look past disappointing housing data and continued tensions in Libya. Stocks are also getting a lift as the nuclear crisis eases in Japan.

Sales of existing homes dropped to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million in February from an upwardly revised 5.4 million in January. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected sales to drop to a rate of 5.1 million. The median price of homes sold fell 5.2% from last year to $156,100, the lowest since April 2002.

Crude futures gained Monday as the conflict in Libya escalated. Coalition forces have been conducting air strikes against the country while its embattled leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi vowed to wage a "long war." The air strikes came after the United Nations Security Council authorized all necessary measures, including a no-fly zone over Libya, to protect civilians under threat of attack, news reports said.

Deal news topped headlines through the first half of the day. AT&T Inc. ( T ) inked a weekend agreement with Deutsche Telekom AG to purchase T-Mobile USA in a cash-and-stock deal worth about $39 billion, the companies announced. The deal joining the second-largest North American wireless operator by subscribers with the fourth-largest would create a combined entity about one third larger than the current market leader, Verizon Communications Inc., ( VZ ) and twice as large as Sprint Nextel Corp. ( S ).

optionsXpress ( OXPS ) is up over 15% on news it will be bought by Charles Schwab ( SCHW ). optionsXpress stockholders will receive 1.02 shares of Schwab stock for each share of optionsXpress stock. Based on Schwab's closing stock price as of March 18, the transaction values each optionsXpress share at $17.91, resulting in a total transaction value of approximately $1 billion.

In other company news:

Citigroup (C) shed it's opening upside and is down 1.78% at mid-day, after announcing plans to start paying quarterly dividends of a penny a share next quarter on the heels of a 1-for-10 reverse stock split, effective May 6. The move this morning follows a clean bill of health from a recent government stress test, clearing the way for banks to increase or start paying dividends again. Some banks said Friday they also will buy back stock. Citigroup received $45 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008, all of which has been repaid, according to the AP.

Shares of Mylan Inc. (MYL) are higher on a Bloomberg report that the company sued the US Food and Drug Administration in a move to block India's Ranbaxy Laboratories exclusive rights to sell a generic version of Lipitor, Pfizer's best-selling drug. In its complaint, Mylan said it and other generic drug companies should be permitted to enter the market as soon as Lipitorâ€â"¢s patent expires, according to the report.

OXiGENE (OXGN) shares are sharply higher after it said the FDA indicated at a meeting that data from the FACT trial for ZYBRESTAT are suggestive of possible clinical activity that may warrant continued development, and that to seek regulatory approval, OXGN should plan to conduct an additional clinical trial with a survival endpoint. The FDA also confirmed that, as the company had expected, the Special Protocol Agreement (SPA) that had been agreed upon at the start of the study is no longer in effect.

Google Inc. (GOOG) is higher amid reports it has been fined in France for violating privacy laws. The company illegally collected personal data while shooting scenes for its Street View feature on Google Earth. France's privacy watchdog fined the Internet behemoth $141,300 (100,000 euros) for collecting e-mails, web browsing histories, online banking information and other personal data from WiFi networks during a period from 2007 to 2010.

Broadcom (BRCM) today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Provigent, a privately-held company which has offices in Santa Clara and Israel and provides mixed signal semiconductors for microwave backhaul systems.

Anadarko Petroleum (APC) is higher after it announced it has signed a joint-venture agreement with a subsidiary of Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC), whereby KNOC will earn approximately one-third of Anadarko's interest in the company's Maverick Basin assets, located in southwest Texas, for approximately $1.55 billion, effective Jan. 1, 2011.

In earnings news:

--Tiffany & Co. (TIF) are higher after it reported Q4 EPS of $1.44 compared to $1.09 a year earlier and topping the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate for $1.39. Sales of $1.1 billion top $981.3 million a year earlier. The Street looked for $1.1 billion. The company guides for full-year 2011 sales growth of 12% to 14% and puts EPS at $3.35 to $3.45 per share, excluding items. The Street is at $3.25.

Commodities are higher. April gold contracts are up $17, or 1.19%, to $1,433 an ounce while May crude oil contacts are up 1.45%, or $1.58, at $103.43 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund (USO) is up 0.78% to $41.29 and the United States Natural Gas fund (UNG) is up $0.09, or 0.82%, to $11.20.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is up 1.03% to $139.79. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is up 2.29% to $57.96. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is up 2.77% to $35.22.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2014 All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

This article appears in: Investing , Commodities
More Headlines for: OXPS , S , SCHW , T , VZ

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