U.S. stocks open busy week moderately higher amid merger news

Stocks rose moderately in early trading Monday as investors greeted another round of buyout news with hopes that Wall Street is poised to head higher.

After a volatile week in which stocks lost ground, merger and acqusition news helped buoy sentiment. Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed to acquire wealth manager First Republic Bank for $1.8 billion (EUR 1.39 billion) in cash and stock and Citigroup Inc. struck an agreement to acquire British insurer Prudential PLC's Egg Banking PLC online bank for 575 million pounds, or about $1.13 billion (EUR 70 million).

Many on Wall Street were girding for a busy week of economic and earnings news as they try to determine whether an indecisive market can resume its advance from the second half of 2006. The Federal Reserve meets starting Tuesday and a torrent of fourth-quarter earnings reports is to arrive.

In the first hour of trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 30.36, or 0.24 percent, at 12,517.38.

Broader stock indicators also rose. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was up 2.04, or 0.14 percent, at 1,424.22, and the Nasdaq composite index was up 1.51, 0.6 percent, at 2,437.00, reports AP.

Beyond the merger news, earnings from Verizon Communications Inc. met with mild disappointment although the telecommunication company's per-share earnings came in a penny ahead of Wall Street's forecast.

Tyson Foods Inc.'s fiscal first-quarter profit jumped 46 percent in the first quarter as the meat producer saw increased chicken sales and lower costs.

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