Stocks strengthened early Monday as a $67 billion mega-merger in the telecommunications industry got traders' blood pumping. Index futures recently showed the S&P 500 trading a point above fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 7-point gain. The 10-year Treasury bond was down 2/32 in price to yield 4.69%, while the dollar was higher against the yen and euro. Tech shares got a lift from Citigroup's upgrade of Intel ( INTC), which went to buy from hold even as its price target fell to $24 from $26. Intel's profit warning helped send the Nasdaq Composite down 0.4% Friday. Oil eased, although the price remained above $63 a barrel as the U.N.'s atomic regulator met to consider Iran's decision to restart nuclear testing. The issue has kept energy prices volatile over the last month as traders placed bets on the likelihood of sanctions against OPEC's No. 2 supplier. April crude was recently down 21 cents to $63.46. Overseas markets were mixed, with London's FTSE 100 recently up 1% to 5915 and Germany's Xetra DAX down 1.1% to 5721. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 1.5% overnight to 15,901, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.1% to 15,812. Shares of AT&T ( T) eased in Europe after the company said it will acquire BellSouth ( BLS) for $67 billion in stock, or about $37.09 a BellSouth share. The combined company will be by far the biggest phone outfit in the U.S., by market cap. General Electric's ( GE) NBC Universal confirmed a definitive agreement to acquire iVillage ( IVIL) for $8.50 a share in cash, or about $600 million. A number of other buyouts were reportedly in the works Monday, including a $3.2 billion bid for Shurgard ( SHU) by Public Storage ( PSA), and a $3.4 billion private equity takeover of Education Management ( EDMC). Neither deal has been publicly confirmed. Shares of Research in Motion ( RIMM) rallied in late-session trading Friday after the company agreed to a $612.5 million settlement of its litigation with NTP Inc. The payout is slightly less than Wall Street had feared. To view David Peltier's video take on today's premarket action,
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RIM also issued disappointing fourth-quarter profit guidance. The company expects 625,000 net subscriber additions, below December's 725,000-add target. RIM also said it expects to make 65 cents a share on revenue of $555 million for the quarter; it had previously estimated a 78-cent profit on revenue of $605 million.