Stocks Trading Higher at Mid-Day; Eyes Ahead to Fed Policy Moves, Election Results

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Stocks are logging gains in mid-day trading as Americans head to the polls in an election expected to result in a Republican power-shift in Congress of at least one legislative chamber. Also, investors are eying the U.S. Federal Reserve, which began a two-day meeting today and is expected to announce monthly asset purchases of around $100 billion over the next six months to spur the sluggish recovery.

Merger and acquisition activity also continued today, buoying stocks.

In the latest round of M&A news, Oracle Corp. ( ORCL ) is higher after announcing that it has agreed to buy Art Technology Group Inc. ( ARTG ) for $1 billion in cash. The $6-per-share purchase price is a 46% premium over Art Technology's closing price on Monday. Shares have soared by a near equal 45%, up $1.86 at $5.96 in morning trading. The deal needs shareholder and regulatory approval, and Oracle expects to close early next year.

Meanwhile, in bid to increase its stake in motion-sensing technology, Microsoft ( MSFT ) acquired Canesta, a company that designs microchips that enable computers to see images in three dimensions, Reuters reported. The purchase of the privately-held Canesta comes as the software giant is looking to launch its Kinect motion-controller next month in an effort to spark sales of its XBox video-game console, the report says.

BHP Billiton ( BHP ) shares are just higher on market buzz that its bid for Potash ( POT ) was rejected, according to a Reuters report. BHP was not available for comment, the report said. No decision was made by Canadian officials about whether the $39 billion bid for Potash should go forward, but news reports indicated that bearuacrats in that country were advising that it should proceed.

Dell Inc ( DELL ) is higher on news the computer maker is expected to announce the purchase of a cloud computer company later today. CEO Michael Dell also reportedly said at a Hong Kong event that the company will bolster its tablet computer line to compete head-on with rivals such as Apple ( AAPL ).

Ronald Kruszewski, Stifel Financial Corp. ( SF ) chief executive, said that the midterm elections could assist financial markets and the U.S. economy if spending gets reigned it, Reuters reports. Such assistance is particularly important for Stifel, the report said, noting it is a midd-market investment bank that underwrites stock offerings and manages money for individual investors.

In the latest earnings news:

--Pfizer ( PFE ) is down in regular-session trading. The drug giant reported Q3 adjusted EPS of $0.54 compared to $0.51 a year earlier and topping the Thomson Reuters mean analyst estimate for $0.51. Revenue of $16.2 billion is up 39% from $11.6 billion a year earlier. The Street expected $16.68 billion. The company is increasing its 2010 adjusted diluted EPS guidance to a range of $2.17 to $2.22 from a range of $2.10 to $2.20. The Street is at $2.22.

--BP ( BP ) is higher after reporting a 67% drop in third-quarter net profit due to another $7.7 billion of charges from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Adjusted underlying profit, however, beat consensus forecasts, MarketWatch reported.

--Medco Health Solutions ( MHS ) is up 9% after the company reported positive third quarter earnings and adjusted its full-year earnings guidance. Medco reported Q3 adjusted EPS of $0.91 compared to $0.75 a year earlier and topping the Street view for $0.88. Revenue reached $16.32 billion from $14.79 billion.

--Kellogg ( K ) is lower after a slowdown in cereal sales in the third quarter hurt the company's bottom line. Kellogg has struggled after 28 million boxes of Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Honey Smacks, and Corn Pops were recalled in June. The four brands are seen to make up about 16% of the company's total cereal sales.

--Shares of NYSE Euronext ( NYX ) are lower in regular-session trading as the exchange said that its third-quarter profit dropped 12% as a global slowdown in trading hit. According to a Reuters report, NYSE Euronext management said that trading during the quarter was unusually quiet, a trend that is unlikely to continue into the next year.

Commodities are higher. December gold contracts are up $2, or 0.12%, to $1,352 an ounce while December crude contacts are up 0.99%, or $0.81, at $83.76 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund ( USO ) is up 1.03% to $36.18 and the United States Natural Gas fund ( UNG ) is up 1.45% to $5.60.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust ( GLD ) is up 0.18% to $132.16. Market Vectors Gold Miners ( GDX ) is up 0.54% to $57.55. iShares Silver Trust ( SLV ) is up 0.50% to $24.20.



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

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This article appears in: Investing , Commodities


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