Updated from 2:14 p.m. EDT

The financial sector spent much of the morning in positive territory Thursday amid M&A news, though it lagged behind the

Nasdaq

along with the two other major indices.

A.G. Edwards

( AGE) was among the takeouts, vaulting 14.3% to $88.16 after

Wachovia

(WB) - Get Weibo Corp Sponsored ADR Class A Report

agreed to

pick it up

for some $89.50 per share in cash and stock -- a 16% premium to the St. Louis broker's latest close. Wachovia slipped 0.7% to $54.19.

Other brokers rode high on A.G. Edwards' coattails in heavy trading, among them

Raymond James Financial

(RJF) - Get Raymond James Financial, Inc. Report

, up 7.3% to $33.31;

Stifel Financial

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, up 8% to $60.21; and

BlackRock

(BLK) - Get BlackRock, Inc. Report

up 4.9% at $153.54.

Also among the climbing brokers was

Jefferies

(JEF) - Get Jefferies Financial Group Inc. Report

, on the heels of two announcements. The New York firm acquired LongAcre Parters, an M&A advisor in the European media and online sector, for an undisclosed sum. Jefferies also said chief financial officer Joseph Schenk will retire by year-end. Its shares jumped 4.7% to $30.64.

Florida's

Fidelity National Financial

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(FNF) - Get Fidelity National Financial, Inc. - FNF Group Report

, meanwhile,

agreed to buy

information-services firm

Ceridian

(CEN) - Get Center Coast Brookfield MLP & Energy Infrastructure Fund of Benef Interest Report

jointly with private-equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners for $5.3 billion in cash, or $36 a share. Fidelity gained 47 cents, or 1.7%, to $28.04; Ceridian added 3.5% to $35.37.

Among the day's financial losers, however, was health-insurer and managed-care provider

WellPoint

(WLP)

. Chief Financial Officer David Colby resigned under pressure from both the current and incoming CEOs, as well as from the company board, having "violated the company's code of conduct." WellPoint added that his actions weren't illegal and were of a "non-business nature," so it provided no further details. Wayne DeVeydt has replaced Colby. Shares were off 3.5% to $81.41.

Also on the downswing today were financial-services firm

Dollar Financial

(DLLR)

, credit-ratings outfit

Moody's

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and exchanges

IntercontinentalExchange

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and

NYSE Euronext

(NYX)

. All lost at least 2.5%.

More broadly, the

NYSE

Financial Sector Index added 0.05% to 9933.90. The KBW Bank Index dipped 0.3% to 117.04.