Stocks Finish Higher

The major indexes recovered amid some merger news and lower energy prices

Stocks closed higher as late-day buying lifted the market out of an earlier mixed performance. Some merger news helped boost a few stocks, while energy futures moved lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 23.46 points to 10,778.58. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 3.53 points to 1,259.37. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index gained 10.27 points to 2,256.73.

"The U.S. calendar is full of key events and data next week, and it should be the last hurrah before trading thins for the Christmas and New Year holidays," says Action Economics. The Federal Open Market Committee meets Tuesday on interest rates -- another 25 basis points hike is expected. Also on Tuesday are retail sales, an important indicator in the holiday shopping season.

The trade report is due out Wednesday, followed by the consumer price index (CPI), industrial production, Empire State, and the Philly Fed index Thursday. Third-quarter current account rounds out the week on Friday.

Greenspan will make some remarks Wednesday afternoon upon receiving an honory degree, notes Action Economics.

In economic news Friday, the preliminary release of University of Michigan consumer sentiment rose to a higher than expected 88.7 level in early December. That's up from 81.6 in November and is the highest since Katrina struck, says Action Economics.

Wholesale inventories rose less than expected 0.2%, and wholesale sales rose at a slower pace than September.

Investors were not overly impressed with an outlook from Intel (INTC ), even though the stock recovered from early weakness. In its mid-quarter review issued after the Thursday's market close, the chipmaker said it sees fourth-quarter revenue of $10.4-$10.6 billion, vs. previous range of $10.2-$10.8 billion. It narrowed its gross margin percentage estimate to 63%, plus or minus a point; capital spending is expected to be below its midpoint of previous estimate of $5.9 billion, plus or minus $200 million.

A report in the New England Journal of Medicine says that drugmaker Merck (MRK ) knowingly withheld information on side-effects from Vioxx on heart patients.

In deal news, Jamdat Mobile (JMDT ) agreed to be acquired by Electronic Arts (ERTS ) for $27 per share cash, plus assumption of outstanding stock options, for total of about $680 million.

Viacom's (VIA ) Paramount unit is poised to make an offer for Dreamworks Animation (DWA ), which has been in talks to be acquired by General Electric's (GE ) NBC Universal unit, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Dave & Buster's (DAB ) agreed to be acquired by an affiliate of Wellspring Capital Management LLC for $18.05 per share cash.

In Europe, London's FTSE-100, Germany's DAX, and France's CAC-40 indexes were trading lower.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei index rose 220.69 points (1.45%) to 15,404.05 helped by recovery gains in financials which experienced a panic selling on Thursday.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 31.35 points (0.21%) to 14,910.51, recovering from yesterday's plunge, as China's Cnooc added 0.9% on strong oil prices. Also, property shares staged a technical rebound, says Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

Treasury Market

Treasury yields rose in the wake of the large gain in wholesale sales, which followed the healthy consumer sentiment rebound and further hawkishness in Europe, says Action Economics. The 10-year note yield shot up to 4.54%.

Meanwhile, traders braced for Tuesday's Federal Reserve meeting. Traders have discounted a 25 basis point rate hike, but there's much speculation about the Fed's policy statement.

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