Merger Monday on Wall Street moves stocks modestly higher

Posted at 12:28 PM, May 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-20 12:28:46-04

By Ben Rooney

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Investors welcomed a pair of corporate mergers Monday, but stocks were only modestly higher as investors await comments from Federal Reserve officials later in the week.

The Dow Jones industrial average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were all up about 0.1%

Traders were wary of pushing stocks higher after last week’s gains. The Dow and S&P 500 both ended at record highs Friday, capping a four week winning streak.

“It’s a slow day so far,” said Peter Tuz, portfolio manager at Chase Investment Counsel.

Do you Tumblr? In an effort to lure younger users, Yahoo officially announced plans to buy blogging site Tumblr for $1.1 billion, mainly in cash.

The Internet pioneer promised not to “screw it up,” but investors weren’t so sure. Yahoo shares barely budged on the news.

Separately, Actavis shares jumped after the drug company said it planned to buy Warner Chilcott in an $8.5 billion stock-for-stock transaction.

Overall, mergers and acquisition activity has picked up recently. So far this year, there have been 45 U.S. corporate transactions, worth a combined $297.6 billion, according to data from FactSet.

The biggest deal has been Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital’s $28 billion plan to buy ketchup giant H.J. Heinz Co.

Dell has received competing bids: Michael Dell’s $24 billion offer versus Carl Icahn and Southeastern Asset Management’s $12-per-share offer.

And Disney bought Lucasfilm late last year in a deal valued at $4 billion.

Bernanke takes the stand: Investors will pay close attention to comments from Federal Reserve officials this week, including chairman Ben Bernanke, who will testify before Congress Wednesday.

All three major U.S. indexes have gained around 16% so far this year on a combination of gradually improving economic data and continued support from the Fed.

But investors have been rattled recently by comments from some Fed officials suggesting the central bank could begin to scale back its bond-buying program sooner than expected.

“There’s a tug-of-war within the Fed about an exit strategy,” said Tuz. “We should hear more about that this week.”

The yen also rises: The yen edged up 0.7% versus the U.S. dollar Monday after the Japanese Economy Minister suggested further weakness could be harmful to Japan’s recovery efforts.

The yen has plunged 15% against the dollar this year as Prime Minister Abe and the Bank of Japan launched an aggressive campaign to reflate the nation’s economy.

Investors have also been pouring money into Japanese stocks. Last week, the Nikkei rose above 15,000, surpassing the Dow in absolute terms for the first time in three years, according to Bill Stone, chief investment officer at PNC Wealth Management.

Metals melt down: Gold prices were down slightly Monday, while silver prices took a tumble.

Gold dropped 0.6% to trade at 1,364.70 an ounce. After rallying earlier this month, gold is now flirting with the lows from mid-April and is down 19% so far this year.

Meanwhile, silver prices fell 3% to $21.68 an ounce. Traders said the silver market is less liquid than the gold market and more vulnerable to sharp moves.

Earnings season winds down: Campbell Soup reported quarterly earnings that beat expectations.

TiVo reports in the afternoon.

Home Depot, Best Buy, Target and Hewlett-Packard are due later in the week.

Chesapeake Energy shares edged up after the natural gas and oil producer announced its new CEO would be Robert Douglas Lawler, an executive at Anadarko Petroleum.

European markets were mostly higher in midday trading. The DAX was leading the indexes forward, although trading was light due to a national holiday in Germany. Meanwhile Asian markets ended with significant gains.