Stocks Look Higher as Global Markets Gain Ground

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As Wall Street waddles back to work this morning, leftover-turkey sandwiches in hand, the market, too, has taken on a little bit of holiday cheer. Stocks look higher.

"They're going to come forward a little bit," said Todd Clark, senior vice president of U.S. equity trading at

HSBC

, "Nothing major -- it looks like they try to open them up about 20 on the

Dow

."

Much of the strength can be credited to easing of tensions on two of Asia's fronts: South Korea and Japan.

An

International Monetary Fund

bailout for South Korea is all but certain.

South Korean Finance Minister Lim Chang-yuel

announced earlier today that the country had hammered out a plan with the IMF. This, however, was later disputed by IMF managing director

Michel Camdessus

, who said that while a great deal of progress has been made, nothing has been sealed yet.

It looks like the plan, when it comes, will be a stringent one, though. Reports that the IMF wants South Korea to slow economic growth down to 2.5%, along with shuttering some of the country's ailing merchant banks, badly hurt the stock market. The

Kospi

fell 14.70, or 3.60%, to close at 393.16. To be sure, the eventual plan will be a bitter pill for South Korea to swallow, but also one that the world's markets will see as an augur of stability in the region.

In Japan,

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto

was something less than his usually ambiguous self when he gave the country, and its markets, these words of support: "It is important to protect depositors with a safety net of public support." Not exactly poesy, but the kind of thing that people like to hear, nonetheless. Cheered by the suggestion that the government may peel back some of its austerity measures and lend some support to Japan's ailing banks, the Tokyo stock market posted gains for the fourth consecutive day. The

Nikkei

climbed 371.33 points to close at 17,007.59, topping 17,000 for the first time since October 27.

The word from Korea and Japan helping ease shoulders around the world. In Hong Kong, the

Hang Seng

climbed 223.96 to close at 10,750.88. In Germany, the

Dax

surged 113.52 to close at 4062.66 -- a stronger dollar gave an extra boost to the export-oriented market there. In London, the

FTSE

is up 50.80 at 4882.60. Those gains have helped push the

S&P 500

futures higher: at 9:00 a.m. (EST) they're up 6.80, indicating a positive open.

With problems in Asia fading from view, stock and bond traders will again focus on things at home. For stock traders, that means trying to figure out what's going on with the holiday shopping season. Early word is that people thronged to the malls -- but didn't buy anything. Still, it looks better than last year's dismal sales, and toys and jewelry apparently sold well.

Treasury traders will be watching today's November

National Purchasing Management

index. It's the first major piece of data showing what the economy looks like in the post-Oct. 27 world. Expectations are for it to come in at 55.2, down from last months 56.0.

The Treasury market always needs to keep at least half an eye on the rest of the world. Asia's effect on the U.S. economy continues to be debated, and the surging dollar has sparked new concerns. Some traders worry that if the dollar, now trading at a five-year high against the yen, turns tail and weakens, Japanese investors may use that drop as an excuse to dump Treasuries. This may create a situation where both sides interests, the U.S. and Japan, are at least partly served by continued strength in the dollar.

The 30-year Treasury bond is trading down 1/32 at 101 2/32, dropping the yield to 6.05%.

National City

(NCC)

announced that will acquire

First of America Bank

(FOA)

in a stock deal valued at $7.1 billion. First of America will receive 1.2 shares of National City for each share of First of America. Based on Friday's close, that would value First of America shares at just over $80 a share. First of America closed Friday at 58 3/4.

Warner Lambert's

(WLA)

Parke-Davis

division announced label changes for toglitazene, the type 2 diabetes drug that it markets as

Rezulin

. "These changes," the company said in a press release, "...will prominently recommend physicians monitor patients more frequently for signs of liver dysfunction." Earlier today,

Glaxo

(

(GLX)

GLX ADR), which markets troglitazene in Britain, announced that it was suspending sales of the drug.