Stocks gained ground Monday as sub-$60 oil and the customary swirl of Monday morning merger news charged up premarket sentiment. Index futures recently showed the S&P 500 trading 3 points above fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 4-point gain. The 10-year Treasury bond was down 4/32 in price to yield 4.80%, while the dollar rose against the yen and fell against the euro. A number of big takeovers were making news Monday morning. Capital One ( COF) announced an agreement to acquire North Fork ( NFB) for $14.6 billion, uniting two banks, while McClatchy ( MNI) will swallow Knight-Ridder ( KRI) for $4.51 billion plus assumed debt. In Europe, German drug and chemical maker Merck KGaA made an unsolicited bid for rival Schering AG ( SHR) that's worth about $18 billion. The New York Stock Exchange ( NYX), meanwhile, is reportedly mulling an offer for the London Stock Exchange that would compete with a $4.2 billion bid publicized Friday from the Nasdaq Stock Market ( NDAC). Oil was lower despite reported unraveling of a deal in which Russia had planned to carry out uranium-enrichment on Iran's behalf. The plan was part of a compromise intended to ease tensions around Iran's renascent nuclear research program. In electronic Nymex trading, April crude was recently down 27 cents to $59.69 a barrel. Overseas markets were higher, with London's FTSE 100 recently adding 0.5% to 5938 and Germany's Xetra DAX rising 0.6% to 5839. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei surged 1.5% overnight to 16,362, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.7% to 15,542. Among companies, CarMax ( KMX) guided up for the fourth quarter, saying its wholesale business did better than expected. The used-car dealer expects to make 37 cents to 39 cents a share for the fourth quarter, well ahead of the 28-cent estimate of analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial. Shares of AstraZeneca ( AZN) traded higher in Europe after its Crestor anti-cholesterol drug was found in a clinical study to reduce plaque in the arteries of certain heart patients. The results could also be good news for Schering-Plough ( SGP), whose Vytorin has recently been making strides as a cholesterol treatment. To view David Peltier's video take on today's premarket action,
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