Stocks Finish Higher

Merger news and lower oil prices help spark some buying

Stocks ended with gains on Monday, thanks to some merger news and lower oil prices, after a three-week slide. Portfolio adjustments prior to the quarter-end may have influenced stock activity, notes Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 42.78 points, or 0.41%, to 10,485.65. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 2.86 points, or 0.24%, to 1,174.28. The Nasdaq composite index added 1.46 points, or 0.07%, to 1,992.52.

In the energy markets Monday, May West Texas Intermediate crude oil was down 79 cents to $54.05 per barrel.

A tsunami warning was issued in Indonesia after an earthquake measuring 8.2 struck, but the impact on the Asian markets was unclear, reports Action Economics.

The big news in stocks Monday was a private equity group announced it will acquire financial data company SunGard Data Systems (SDS ) in an $11.3 billion deal, or $36 per share plus debt.

Qwest Communications (Q ) informed MCI Inc. (MCIP ) that it has until midnight Apr. 5 to respond to Qwest's latest takeover offer, which is worth $8.45 billion. MCI already agreed to be bought by Verizon (VZ ) for $6.75 billion.

In other news, the Wall Street Journal reported that as many as 12 executives at AIG (AIG ) were subpoenaed by the SEC amid probes of financial transactions.

UBS Financial downgraded Dow component General Motors (GM ) to reduce, which could also keep the automaker's debt holders on the defensive, reports Action Economics.

There were no economic reports due Monday. Looking ahead, figures for March are due out Tuesday. The gauge is seen ticking down to about 103.5 from 104 in February.

On Wednesday, final gross domestic product (GDP) figures are expected to show the U.S. economy grew 3.8% in the fourth quarter. And on Thursday, a gauge of regional manufacturing activity-- the Chicago purchasing manager's index -- is seen showing a slight contraction to 61.5 in March from 62.7 in February.

But the week's marquee release will come Friday: the March employment report. Economists expect to see 180,000 jobs added in March vs. the 262,000 rise in February. The unemployment rate is seen holding steady at 5.4%.

Among the big-name companies on the earnings calendar this week: Drugstore chain Walgreen (WAG ) today, electronics retailers Best Buy (BBY ) and Circuit City Stores (CC ) on Wednesday and financial services outfit A.G. Edwards (AGE ) on Thursday.

Treasury Market

Treasury prices fell on Monday, sending yields higher. The 10-year note yielded 4.62%. The bond market remained in hibernation mode after the long Easter weekend, notes Action Economics, with yields generally elevated ahead of Wednesday's $24 billion 2-year note auction and Friday's jobs report.

In the currency markets, the U.S. dollar was strengthening on bets that the Federal Reserve will begin raising rates at a faster pace, according to Standard & Poor's MarketScope.

World Markets

European stock markets were closed for the Easter Monday holiday.

Asian markets finished higher on Monday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index rose 31.20 points, or 0.27%, to 11,792.30. The markets in Hong Kong were closed for a holiday.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.