Casting About for Signs on Wall Street

With Tokyo and London closed for holidays and no mergers of note, it's hard to figure what will lead.
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Occasionally, Wall Street runs into a kind of dead space, a day on which it's hard to get a read on what the market will latch onto. Today is one of them.

A lot of it is simply a matter of where we are in the calendar. For some time, earnings have been the theme, with the better-than-expected results in cyclical areas driving a rotation out of growth stocks and into everything else. But now earnings season is over, so there goes the thing that's been moving the market.

In other times, overseas action might take over the reins. Not today, though -- Asia's and Europe's largest markets, Tokyo and London, are closed. In other times, there might be some massive merger to pique the market's interest, but it looks like the investment bankers spent the weekend taking in the sun, like everyone else.

"There's nothing going on," said Dan Mathisson, head stock trader at

D.E. Shaw Securities

. "I don't have a lot of orders on my desk and, like everyone else, I'm just waiting to see how it opens."

For starts, at least, stocks look like they'll be weak. At 9 a.m. EDT, the

S&P 500

futures were up 1.9, more than 3 below fair value and indicating a slump at the bell.

Treasuries were under a bit of pressure, as bond traders await the April

purchasing managers index

, due out at 10 a.m. The 30-year was off 11/32 to 93 24/32, lifting the yield to 5.69%.

Thin trading in Hong Kong made for a volatile session, with a selloff at the open and buying in the afternoon. In the end, it didn't mean much -- the

Hang Seng

added 3.87 to 13,337.07.

Europe's major bourses were lower. In Frankfurt, the

Dax

was off 30.36 to 5362.75. In Paris, the

CAC

was down 4.81 to 4410.16.

Monday's Wake-Up Watchlist

By

Brian Louis

Staff Reporter

  • MediaOne (UMG) tentatively accepted AT&T's (T) - Get Report $54 billion unsolicited bid, giving Comcast (CMCSA) - Get Report until Thursday to make a counteroffer, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The Journal reported that MediaOne's board formally accepted the AT&T offer Saturday after concluding AT&T's offer was financially superior. Comcast and MediaOne had earlier agreed to a $48 billion deal.
  • Firstar (FSR) on Friday agreed to acquire Mercantile Bancorp (MTL) - Get Report in a stock swap valued at $10.6 billion.
  • IBM (IBM) - Get Report is expected to release its new generation of mainframe computers -- G6 mainframes -- and ship them a month ahead of schedule. Separately, IBM is providing new evidence that may bolster the government's antitrust case against Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report, the Journal reported, citing people close to the case. In other news (earnings estimates from First Call):
  • Morgan Stanley Dean Witter upgraded Abbott Laboratories (ABT) - Get Report to outperform from neutral.
  • Baker Hughes (BHI) posted first-quarter earnings of 13 cents a share, beating the 22-analyst consensus estimate of 11 cents, but down from the year-ago 35 cents.
  • Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette upgraded Carnival (CCL) - Get Report to buy from market perform.
  • Ceridian (CEN) - Get Report is buying ABR Information Services (ABRX) for $25.50 a share in cash, or about $750 million. ABR is a provider of comprehensive benefits administration, payroll and human resource services.
  • E*Trade (EGRP) said ClearStation, its recently acquired financial media Web site, has surpassed 100,000 registered members.
  • Goldman Sachs' IPO is expected to be priced tonight. The white-shoe firm is ending its 130-year history as a private partnership by selling a 13% stake, with the offering expected to top $3 billion.
  • Philips Electronics (PHG) - Get Report reached a friendly pact to buy chipmaker VLSI Technology (VLSI) in a deal valued at about $1 billion, bringing to an end Philips' nearly two-month hostile takeover attempt. Philips said it will pay $21 a share for VLSI, a chunky premium above its hostile bid that valued the chipmaker at $17 a share, or $777 million.
  • RealNetworks (RNWK) - Get Report unveiled RealJukebox, which allows consumers to record CD collections to PC hard drives and to find and download music from the Internet. TheStreet.com wrote about the software in a story this morning.
  • RSL Communications (RSLC) is planning an IPO of its wholly owned Internet telephony subsidiary, Delta Three. The offering is expected to take place during the third quarter.
  • SBC Communications (SBC) and Telmex (TMX) are buying Cellular Communications Of Puerto Rico (CLRP) . Under the terms of the deal, SBC and Telmex, through a joint venture, will pay $464 million in cash and will assume $350 million in long-term debt. The transaction will be accounted for as a purchase.
  • SPX (SPW) increased its earnings-per-share guidance for 1999 to $5 from $4.90, before unusual items, thanks to top-line growth and first-quarter operating performance, the company said. The current five-analyst consensus estimate calls for SPX to earn $4.96 a share in 1999.
  • Telecom Italia (TI) and Deutsche Telekom (DT) - Get Report are in talks with a third communications company about joining in on their proposed merger in an effort to bolster the combo, the Journal reported, citing an individual close to Telecom Italia. The two groups haven't decided whether the newcomer would take a stake in the combined group, the newspaper reported. Among possible U.S. partners are BellSouth (BLS) and SBC Communications, the Journal reported.
  • Utilicorp (UCU) posted first-quarter earnings of 57 cents a share, beating the seven-analyst estimate of 55 cents and up from the year-ago 53 cents.