Stocks were higher early Monday as oil eased, Intel ( INTC - Get Report) was upgraded and a storm of merger activity blew into the utility sector.

Index futures recently showed the S&P 500 trading 2 points above fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 4-point jump. The 10-year Treasury bond was down 1/32 in price to yield 4.58% -- 14 basis points below the two-year note -- and the dollar fell against the yen and rose against the euro.

Helping stocks was word that Britain's National Grid will acquire KeySpan for $7.3 billion in cash plus assumed debt. The $42-a-share takeout price is a 16% premium to KeySpan's close on Feb. 16, the day before the company confirmed it was talking to several suitors.

Crude fell, giving back some of Friday's 4% gain, as Iran reportedly reached a deal in which Russia will handle uranium-enrichment duties for its nuclear power program. The agreement could ease concerns about Iran's nuclear ambitions. In electronic Nymex trading, April crude was down 86 cents to $62.05 a barrel.

Foreign stocks were higher, with London's FTSE 100 recently up 0.3% to 5879 and Germany's Xetra DAX gaining 0.2% to 5871. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 0.6% overnight to 16,193, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.6% to 15,950.

Overseas shares got a boost from a massive utility merger. Two French giants, Suez and Gaz de France, announced board approval Monday for stock-for-stock merger worth nearly $38 billion.

Among stocks, Intel was raised to outperform from market perform at JMP Securities. The brokerage expressed confidence in various upcoming product launches, including a chip for a notebook built by Apple ( AAPL - Get Report).

Chinese recruitment outfit 51Job ( JOBS - Get Report) said fourth-quarter earnings rose 60.2% from a year ago to $2.4 million, or 8 cents per American depositary share, a penny better than estimates. Sales rose 20.2% to $17.9 million.

To view Frank Curzio's video take on today's premarket action, click here .

An article in Barron's over the weekend featured analyst speculation that Apple might one day consider a bid for Disney ( DIS - Get Report), where CEO Steve Jobs is now the single largest shareholder. The story noted that Apple's market cap is currently $10 billion more than the entertainment conglomerate and quoted one observer calling Disney "badly undervalued."