Firm Tone for the Start of a (Hopefully) Less Manic Week

Stocks are a bit higher after middling sessions in Asia and stronger ones in Europe.
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After last week's manic action, stocks look like they'll start out this one on a more balanced note.

The market was firm going into the open, with Internet stocks getting a bid in premarket trading and traders confident that the recent signs of a broadening in the market will continue. "What's going on with the

Russell

indicates that investor confidence is spilling over into the other indices," said Bill Allyn, head of block trading at

Jefferies

. "Investor interest has broadened, and we're going to continue to see more of this. All those economically sensitive

issues will continue to benefit."

"It looks like Friday was just a nice pause," said Todd Clark, head of listed trading at

Charles Schwab

. Clark is monitoring whether the June

S&P 500

futures contract can crack 1372.50. "If you can see them get through there, I think you're going to see another leg on the upside," he said.

At 9 a.m. EDT, the June contract was up 1.5 to 1366.5, putting it about 2 above fair value and indicating a positive open. The 30-year Treasury bond was off 15/32 to 94 16/32, lifting the yield to 5.63%.

Tokyo stocks had a volatile day, with the

Nikkei

skipping as high as 17,143 before late-day selling. The index ended the day off 4.74 to 16,918.51

Confirmation of what everyone knew -- that

British Telecom

and

AT&T

are each taking a 15% stake in

Japan Telecom

-- dominated Tokyo trading. The deal marks another attack on

NTT

, the world's largest telecom company. NTT and Britain's

Cable & Wireless

have been in a bidding war for long-distance provider

International Digital Communications

.

The Japanese telecommunications space is seen as a four-way battle among NTT, Japan Telecom,

KDD

and

DDI

, with the odds heavily favoring NTT. But as lesser players link up with foreign carriers, that could change.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

broke 13,000, clearing another of the millennial marks that it fell through in the October 1997 market crash. But while utility and telecommunications stocks performed well, as did market heavyweight

HSBC

, decliners led advancers as investors fretted that not all Hong Kong stocks deserve to soar with the market. The Hang Seng added 221.72, or 1.7%, to 13,127.02.

The way the European game of telephone works, the first person whispers that

Deutsche Telekom

and

Telecom Italia

are merging, and eventually people are saying that all telecoms are set to merge.

The sector is doing well today, helping the European bourses to some gains. In Germany, the

Dax

was up 45.29 to 5240.71. In Paris, the

CAC

was up 46.52, or 1.1%, to 4308.95. And in London, the

FTSE

was up 68.8, or 1.1%, to 6496.8.

Monday's Wake-Up Watchlist

By

Brian Louis

Staff Reporter

  • Comcast (CMCSA) - Get Report spent the weekend with its bankers, trying to come up with a counteroffer to AT&T's unsolicited bid for MediaOne (UMG) , The Wall Street Journal reported. While Comcast searched for ways to stave off AT&T, MediaOne negotiated a confidentiality agreement with Ma Bell, the first step in proceeding with formal merger talks, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
  • First Union (FTU) is buying Everen Capital (EVR) - Get Report in a deal valued at roughly $1.1 billion. In other news (earnings estimates from First Call):
  • American Express (AXP) - Get Report Chairman and Chief Executive Harvey Golub plans to retire in April 2001. At that time, Ken Chenault, the company's president and chief operating officer, will succeed him as CEO. Golub plans to remain chairman for about a year after his retirement as CEO, at which time Chenault will take over as chairman.
  • AstraZeneca (AZN) - Get Report is close to completing the auction of its specialty-chemicals business, with bids received in the range of $2.1 billion, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.
  • Bankers Trust (BT) reported first-quarter earnings of $1.30 a share, beating the six-analyst estimate of $1.08, but down from the year-ago $2.01.
  • eBay (EBAY) - Get Report is acquiring auction house Butterfield & Butterfield for $260 million.
  • E*Trade (EGRP) said it has surpassed 1 million customer accounts.
  • Fort James (FJ) is selling its packaging business for $830 million. The company also announced a stock buyback program of up to $500 million over the next 18 months.
  • Global Crossing (GBLX) is buying Global Marine, a unit of Britain's Cable & Wireless, in a deal valued at about $885 million.
  • Lycos (LCOS) said it launched Lycos Radio Network, an online broadcaster, featuring music and video.
  • Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette downgraded Noble Drilling (NE) - Get Report to market perform from buy.
  • Oneok (OKE) - Get Report is acquiring Southwest Gas (SWX) - Get Report, in a deal valued at $1.8 billion, including debt.
  • Morgan Stanley Dean Witter initiated coverage of priceline.com (PCLN) with an outperform rating. Goldman Sachs also initiated coverage of priceline.com, putting it on its recommended list.
  • Sunstrand (SNS) first-quarter earnings of $1.02 a share, beating the nine-analyst estimate of 99 cents and up from the year-ago 88 cents.
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average component Union Carbide (UK) posted first-quarter operating earnings of 52 cents a share, beating the 13-analyst view of 45 cents, but down from the year-ago $1.01.
  • Warner-Lambert (WLA) posted first-quarter earnings of 45 cents, beating the 26-analyst estimate by a penny, and up from the year-ago 33 cents.