Dow +110 S&P +12.5 NASDAQ +22 - US equities are sustaining strong gains in early trading on strength in Asian and European markets, compounded by light volumes and enthusiasm from this morning's mergers. A health insurance reform bill light of a public option passed a critical legislative test early this morning, with a final vote on the measure expected by Christmas Eve. Major health insurance names are up 5-6% on the news. Front-month crude is up a bit more this morning, pushing over the $74 handle as OPEC delegates gather for the cartel's December meeting in Luanda, Angola. Major OPEC figures continue to state that no change will come from the meeting.
- Markets are taking comfort from another round of sizable mergers announced yesterday and today as yet another sign things are returning to normal. French pharma Sanofi-Aventis said it would acquire US over-the-counter health products operation Chattem for $93.50/shr in a deal valued at nearly $2B. The transaction will create the world's fifth-largest consumer healthcare company measured by product revenues, and provide Sanofi with a strong distribution channel in the US. Terex is selling its mining equipment business to Bucyrus for $1.3B in cash. Terex said the move was part of its plan to reorient itself toward an industrial machinery business, away from the construction and mining business. Bucyrus said the deal could double its market for mining hardware.
- In earnings, ConAgra beat bottom-line estimates but missed revenue targets. The firm raised its 2010 outlook modestly, reflecting its strong performance in the first half of its fiscal year. Walgreen was ahead of the consensus on both the top and bottom lines. Arrow Electronics uncharacteristically offered full-year guidance this morning, noting that it would solidly beat 2009 earnings estimates. Vishay Intertechnology raised its Q4 revenue outlook, on better than expected demand for certain semiconductor components.
- The greenback's highly touted inverse relationship to stocks continues to shows signs of stress. Despite the strong stock performance the dollar is posting modest gains against the euro, pound, and Swiss Franc. USD/JPY is also nearing the 91 mark trading at its best levels in more than a month. The Greenback is getting a boost from higher US rates. The 10-year yield touched 3.65% for the first time since August while the curve continues to steepen. The benchmark spread reached its all time widest levels above 280 basis points.
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