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Monday, September 27, 2010

Indications: U.S. stock futures gain amid deal news

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By Polya Lesova, MarketWatch

FRANKFURT (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures edged higher on Monday, extending the previous session’s strong gains, as deal news stole the spotlight in the absence of any major economic data.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average /quotes/comstock/19*!dy10z (DJZ10 10,801, +17.00, +0.16%)  gained 19 points to 10,803 and S&P 500 futures /quotes/comstock/21m!f1:sp\z10 (SPZ10 1,145, +1.30, +0.11%)  added 1 point to 1,144.20.

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The Dow industrials index rallied 1.9% on Friday, posting its highest close since May 12. It gained 2.4% last week, its fourth straight week of gains.

Asian stocks rose overnight, and European equity markets moved higher in afternoon trading. The Stoxx Europe 600 index /quotes/comstock/22c!sxxp (ST:SXXP 263.90, -0.07, -0.03%)  edged up 0.1%.

“There’s a bit of a lack of drivers behind today’s moves,” said Joshua Raymond, market strategist at City Index. “We haven’t seen traders look to cash in their gains yet and that’s a good element to have.”

The marginal gains for U.S. stock futures are mirroring the small gains in Europe, according to Raymond.

“It’s looking like a slow start to the week,” he said. “On Thursday, you’ve got the final reading of U.S. GDP and a lot of focus this week will be on that.”

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No major economic data are scheduled for release on Monday in the U.S. and Europe.

Instead, traders digested newly announced deals.

Southwest Airlines Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!luv/quotes/nls/luv (LUV 12.28, +0.41, +3.45%)  announced it will acquire AirTran Holdings Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!aai/quotes/nls/aai (AAI 4.55, +0.16, +3.64%) . The deal values AirTran at around $1.4 billion, including the firm’s convertible notes outstanding. Shares of AirTran soared 59% in thin premarket trading.

In other deal news, retailing giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. /quotes/comstock/13*!wmt/quotes/nls/wmt (WMT 54.08, +0.43, +0.80%)  said it has made a preliminary, non-binding, proposal to buy Johannesburg-based Massmart Holdings Ltd. (ZA:MSM 13,475, +125.00, +0.94%)  for 148 South African rand ($21.13) per share.

And consumer-products firm Unilever /quotes/comstock/13*!un/quotes/nls/un (UN 29.37, +0.52, +1.80%)   /quotes/comstock/13*!ul/quotes/nls/ul (UL 28.56, +0.47, +1.67%)   /quotes/comstock/23s!e:ulvr (UK:ULVR 1,839, +46.00, +2.57%)  announced an agreement to buy U.S.-based Alberto Culver Co. /quotes/comstock/13*!acv/quotes/nls/acv (ACV 31.48, +0.18, +0.58%)  for $3.7 billion in cash, moving to expand its presence in the hair-conditioning and shampoo market.

Meanwhile, egg producer Cal-Maine Foods Inc. /quotes/comstock/15*!calm/quotes/nls/calm (CALM 30.30, +0.54, +1.81%)  reported a return to profitability in the fiscal first quarter, buoyed by a business-interruption insurance gain.

In the currency markets, the euro fell 0.1% to $1.3473. The dollar index /quotes/comstock/11j!i:dxy0 (DXY 79.21, -0.18, -0.23%)  , which tracks the performance of the greenback against a basket of other major currencies, edged lower to 79.307.

Gold futures gained $1.70 to $1,299.80 an ounce in electronic trading on Globex.

Polya Lesova is reporter for MarketWatch, based in Frankfurt.

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