U.S. Stocks Off to a Positive Start

Updated from 9:30 a.m. EDT

U.S. stocks opened higher Monday on reports of continued international support for the financial system and additional thawing in credit markets. Traders were also looking at a heap of quarterly corporate earnings statements.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 106 points at 8958, and the S&P 500 added 9 points to 950. The Nasdaq climbed 20 points to 1732.

Over the weekend, President Bush announced plans to convene global leaders to continue to work on solutions to the credit crunch, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

The crisis continued to send shocks throughout the global financial system. On Sunday, the Dutch government said it would buy a $13.4 billion stake in ING Groep ( ING) to shore up the company's balance sheet, the Associated Press reported.

Credit markets appeared to continue to relax, as three-month dollar labor dropped 36 basis points to 4.06%, while the overnight rate declined 16 basis points to 1.51%.

Rates nonetheless remained elevated, causing wrinkles in other companies' plans. The Journal reported that General Motors' ( GM) was having trouble getting funding for a purchase of fellow automaker Chrysler.

Looking at corporate earnings, Ericsson ( ERIC) announced a 28% decline in third-quarter earnings but beat analyst estimates.

Oil-services firm Halliburton ( HAL) swung to a $21 million loss related to a cash settlement of convertible debt. Its income, however, reached a company record of $1 billion.

Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis ( NVS) said its profit climbed 12% year over year on rising sales.

The Journal also reported that Internet portal Yahoo! ( YHOO) would probably announce layoffs, perhaps as early as Tuesday's earnings report.

Merrill Lynch ( MER) also had bad news. CEO John Thain said he foresaw job cuts numbering in the thousands for the brokerage, which is slated to be bought by Bank of America ( BAC)

Meanwhile, utility services firm Exelon ( EXC) offered to buy NRG Energy ( NRG) for $6.2 billion in an all-stock deal.

In analyst actions, Goldman Sachs downgraded Intel ( INTC) to neutral from buy, predicting a decline in profit margins.

Shifting to economic data, traders will be looking at the Conference Board's leading indicators for September.

As for commodities, crude oil was climbing $2.05 to $73.90 a barrel. Gold was adding $5.80 to $793.50 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were mixed. The 10-year was up 2/32 to yield 3.93%, and the 30-year was shedding 6/32, yielding 4.33%. The dollar was stronger vs. the euro and pound but softening against the yen.

Abroad, European exchanges including the FTSE in London and the Dax in Frankfurt were trading higher. In Asian markets, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed with gains.

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