Stocks Try to Recover

On the first trading day of the fourth quarter, futures are pointing to a higher open.
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Stocks appeared poised to open trading for the fourth quarter on a high note, as futures were indicating strength for both tech shares and blue chips.

Futures on the

S&P 500

were up 1.5 points at 1346.90, nearly 4 points ahead of fair value. Nasdaq 100 futures were adding 1 point to 1672.25, around 3 points above fair value.

The early optimism follows a week in which the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

tried but failed to establish a new high. The Dow entered Friday's session just 5 points from its best-ever finish, but when the closing bell rang it had dropped 39.38 points, or 0.34%, to go out at 11,679.07, leaving it roughly 44 points shy of the January 2000 top mark.

As for the other major averages, the S&P 500 slipped 3.30 points, or 0.25%, to 1335.85, and the

Nasdaq Composite

was off 11.59 points, or 0.51%, to 2258.43.

Even with the sluggish finish, September, normally a weak month for stocks, was good overall. The Dow rose 298 points, or 2.6%, the S&P 500 gained 32 points, or 2.5%, and the Nasdaq tacked on 75 points, or 3.4%.

At the same time, the market had its best quarterly performance since the last quarter of 2004. The Dow climbed 4.7%, the S&P 500 rose 5.2%, and the Nasdaq was higher by 4% during the last three months.

Mergers and rumors of takeovers were grabbing the early headlines Monday, including one in the biotech sector, where

Gilead Sciences

(GILD) - Get Report

said it would acquire

Myogen

(MYOG)

for $52.50 a share, or $2.5 billion.

Separately,

The Wall Street Journal

said a group of private investors is trying to work out an agreement to buy casino operator

Harrah's Entertainment

(HET)

. The report cited people who had knowledge of the situation.

The world's biggest retailer,

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

, said this weekend that same-store sales rose 1.8% in September, toward the lower end of its prior forecast. The company had projected year-over-year growth of 1% to 3% at stores open for more than a year.

Staying in the retail group,

Pier 1

(PIR) - Get Report

said that Marvin Girouard, its chairman and chief executive, plans to retire from his posts at the end of next February.