Stocks in New York opened modestly lower, but then turned slightly positive as a mega merger between cholesterol-drug teammates Merck (MRK) - Get Report and Shering Plough (SGP) was digested by investors.
Merck proposed a $41 billion cash-and-stock deal, offering Schering Plough shareholders 0.5767 of a Merck share and $10.50 in cash for each of their shares. Merck's shares were down 11% while Schering's surged 12% higher early Monday.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
was up 46 points at 6673, and the
rose 8 points to 692. The
was rising 16 points to 1310.
Last week, the Dow lost 6.2%, the S&P shed 7%, and the Nasdaq gave up 6.1%. But the Dow and S&P managed to end Friday's session in slightly positive territory, despite the highest unemployment rate since 1983. Data on retail sales and the trade deficit will be available later in the week.
Not everyone is struggling under the tough economy, though.
posted a 1.4% rise in February sales at restaurants open at least 13 months, with help from strength in the U.S. Last week,
also had sales growth to report, and went against the grain by raising its dividend.
became the latest bank to
on Monday. The company said that scaling back to 5 cents a share from 37.5 cents will preserve more than $500 million in capital annually.
dividend on Friday, following other banks like
JP Morgan Chase
Bank of America
In other banking news,
, Vice Chairman Hans-Ulrich Doerig, in light of Walter Kielholz moving to become the Chairman of
reported that Bank of America is starting to withdraw offers to some MBA students that graduate from U.S. business schools this year, as one of the provisions of the TARP bailout money prevents the bank from applying for H1-B visas for immigrants if they have recently laid off U.S. workers.
Job cuts continue, as U.S. publisher
, which owns 30 daily newspapers, said it will slash 1,600 jobs, or about 15% of its workforce, as advertising sales struggle.
In commodities, oil was down 7 cents at $45.45 a barrel, and gold was lower by $6.70 at $936 an ounce.
Longer-dated Treasuries were rising. The 10-year note was adding 4/32 to yield 2.8%, and the 30-year was adding 7/32, yielding 3.5%. The dollar was recently stronger against the yen, pound and euro.
Stocks overseas were largely lower. The FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were down more than 1% apiece. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Japan's Nikkei closed lower by 1.2% and 4.8%, respectively.