NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wall Street might have been preparing for a historic blizzard bearing down on the Northeast on Monday, but things were calmer for equities, with stocks spending much of the day hugging the flatline. Benchmark indexes were little changed as investors weighed a flurry of deals and stabilizing oil prices against fears of political drama in Greece and a hit to Russia's credit rating.
The S&P 500 edged 0.25% higher, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.03%, and the Nasdaq climbed 0.29%.
Among the deals announced Monday, paper packaging company MeadWestvaco (MWV - Get Report) jumped 14% on news of a merger with competitor RockTenn (RKT) . The deal, worth $16 billion, would see MeadWestvaco hold 50.1% of the combined company.Energy Transfer Partners (ETP - Get Report) agreed to purchase affiliate Regency Energy Partners (RGP) for around $18 billion. The combined company would have operations in the majority of oil-producing regions in the U.S. Energy Transfer was 6.4% lower and Regency Energy jumped 5%.
PartnerRe (PRE) and Axis Capital Holdings (AXS) agreed to merge in a transaction that creates a giant reinsurer valued at $11 billion. Axis climbed 5.8%. Crude oil prices had pared earlier losses, hovering at just above $45 a barrel following reassurance from the secretary-general of OPEC that oil prices would bottom out at current levels. "Now the prices are around $45-$55 and I think maybe they reached the bottom and will see some rebound very soon," Abdullah el-Badri told Reuters. El-Badri also said without new investment, crude oil prices could recover to $200-a-barrel levels as the supply-demand dynamic restabilizes over the next few years. West Texas Intermediate crude oil was down 0.9% to $45.17 a barrel. Prices fell more than 1% earlier as Saudi Arabia's successor reiterated the country's commitment to previous oil production policies. The biggest OPEC producer has been under pressure to limit output in the face of global oversupply. Energy producers Exxon Mobil (XOM) , Chevron (CVX) , Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) and BP (BP) were all higher. The Energy Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLE) climbed 1.4%. Athens' ATG stock index was down 3.2% after anti-austerity party Syriza won the general election in Greece, igniting fears the new government could compromise the terms of Greece's bailout package, possibly leading to Greece's exit from the eurozone. Since 2010, the European Union and International Monetary Fund have loaned Greece 240 billion euros ($277.8 billion). "Markets appear to be uncertain about how to react to the Greek Syriza party's near-majority victory over the weekend," said TD Securities' Gennadiy Goldberg. "The risk-off sentiment ... appears to have eased as Syriza leadership insists that it wishes to keep Greece in the eurozone." The clear losers on stock markets Monday were Russian ADRs which slid after S&P downgraded the nation's sovereign credit rating to "junk" status, below investment grade. Mobile TeleSystems (MBT) , VimpelCom (VIP) , Yandex (YNDX) and Qiwi (QIWI) plummeted, though were already trading lower on worsening violence in Ukraine and the threat of further sanctions against Russia. The Direxion Daily Russia ETF (RUSL) tumbled more than 21%. STOCKS TO BUY: TheStreet Quant Ratings has identified a handful of stocks that can potentially TRIPLE in the next 12 months. Learn more. --Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.
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