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Taking a high tone
Reports of corporate and labor deals gives stock futures a lift in early trading Monday.
December 12, 2005: 7:59 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Stocks could get a lift Monday from some good corporate news, including labor agreements and merger talk.

U.S. stock futures were sharply higher, indicating a strong opening for stocks.

Ford Motor (Research) announced Saturday it had reached a long-sought agreement to trim health care costs at the nation's No. 2 automaker. Delta Air Lines (Research), then nation's No. 3 air carrier, also announced it had reached an tentative agreement with pilots that likely ends the threat of a crippling strike at the bankrupt airline.

Paramount Pictures, a unit of media conglomerate Viacom (Research) is buying privately held independent movie studio DreamWorks for $774 million in cash, plus nearly $900 million in assumed debt. General Electric's (Research) NBC Universal had been a bidder for the studio.

Oil major ConocoPhillips (Research) is in advanced talks to buy oil and gas producer Burlington Resources (Research) for more than $30 billion, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Oil prices were higher Monday, crossing the $60 a barrel benchmark, after OPEC said it would trim its output but won't cut its production quota. The January light crude futures contract for NYMEX gained 79 cents to $60.18 a barrel in electronic trading, while the January contract for Brent crude up 96 cents to $58.27.

Some traders could be looking ahead for a signal from the Federal Open Market Committee meeting Tuesday that the Federal Reserve is getting close to ending its course of interest rate hikes early next year, said Peter Cardillo, chief market strategist SW Bach.

"There's no economic news today, so it's the OPEC meeting and M&A (merger and acquisition) lifting futures," said Cardillo. "I think basically the market is back on track for the end of the year rally as focus turns to inflation and the FOMC meeting Tuesday. The statement from the FOMC is key."

Major markets in Asia closed higher Monday, as Japan's Nikkei hit a 5-year high and South Korea's Kospi reached record levels. Major European markets also were higher in early trading.

Treasury prices were little changed, leaving the yield on the 10-year note at 4.52 percent. The dollar lost ground against the euro and the yen. Gold continued to gain, this time to nearly a 25-year high.

For a more detailed look at the markets before the open, click here.  Top of page

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