Market mavens are dealing with the coalescing possibility of the biggest bank merger ever, just in time for a nice, calm start to the holiday break.
Bringing yesterday's rumors closer to becoming today's surprising reality,
plan to announce soon a "potential merger" that's been estimated to value Barnett at $12 billion to $14 billion. That would beat last year's $11 billion merger of
and 1995's $10 billion combo of
"Barnett and NationsBank both have asked the
New York Stock Exchange
to halt trading pending an announcement later today concerning their potential merger," a NationsBank spokesman was quoted as saying this morning. Those stocks remain halted at midday, but Barnett already enjoyed a nice run yesterday as chatter swelled up about a possible deal. It was up 2 3/8 to 54 13/16.
Other regional banks are pumping higher as investors play the "who's next?" guessing game.
gained 1 1/16 to 43 9/16,
rose 1/2 to 61 3/4 and
added 1/2 to 58 3/8. (Summit's prospects as a takeover target were the subject of an
Aug. 7 story in
Away from the banking talk, stocks are easing into the long Labor Day weekend with a mixed midday performance. Blue-chips have been knocked around by economic data while techs mount a decent rally.
The 10 a.m. EDT release of the
Purchasing Management Association of Chicago
business activity index and the
University of Michigan
consumer sentiment survey, both posting stronger-than-expected rises, delivered a one-two punch that sent the
Dow Jones Industrial Average
reeling. The Dow swiftly dropped more than 87 points to 7607 as bonds plummeted, but both markets quickly reversed course. Around noon, the Dow was off 29 to 7665.
All the action is coming on unsurprisingly low volume, with about 179 million shares changing hands on the Big Board by noon. Decliners led advancers by 1,379 to 1,091.
"We'll probably see some swings because of the thinness, but there wasn't a lot for sale when the market sold off after that Chicago number," one trader noted. He said there's absolutely no clear tone to the day's trading, making it tough to say whether the market's Friday curse (declared dead
last week by our James J. Cramer) will pull a
or follow the lead of
Generalissimo Francisco Franco
In techland, upswings in such big names as
are helping the
Nasdaq Composite Index
to a 0.4% gain at midday. Nasdaq volume also remains anemic at 237 million shares, with advancers leading decliners by a 9-to-8.5 margin.