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Wall Street eases back to work

Stock futures head higher as traders return from holiday weekend; JPMorgan's bid for Bear in focus.

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NEW YORK(CNNMoney.com) -- U.S. stock futures moved higher early Monday as investors returned from the long weekend and eyed the possibility of a higher bid for Wall Street firm Bear Stearns.

Just before the start of trading, Nasdaq and S&P futures were a shade higher, although a comparison to fair value suggested a weak open. U.S. and European markets were closed Friday.

Investors face a busy economic calendar this week. The string of reports kicks off Monday with a reading on February existing home sales, due out at 10 a.m. ET.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com forecast that home sales will slip further to an annual rate of 4.86 million from 4.89 million in January, which would set yet another record low for that measure.

In the latest news from the battered financial markets, JPMorgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) may hike its offer for rival Bear Stearns (BSC, Fortune 500) fivefold to $10 a share, according to a report in the New York Times.

Last week JPMorgan reached a deal to buy Bear for just $2 a share. It's looking at the higher bid to win approval of the deal from major shareholders, including key employees of Bear Stearns, who have been critical of the fire-sale price.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's announced Friday it was weighing whether to downgrade Goldman Sachs Group (GS, Fortune 500) and Lehman Brothers Holdings (LEH, Fortune 500).

In other corporate news, the owner of privately held Tribune Company is looking at a possible sale of some of its properties. The move comes amid reports that News Corp. (NWS, Fortune 500) - which owns the New York Post - as well as the owner of rival Daily News and Long Island cable operator Cablevision (CVC, Fortune 500) are all in discussions about a possible purchase of Newsday, the Tribune Company's Long Island newspaper.

In global trade, Asian stocks mostly gained, led by a surge in Taiwan shares after an election there. European markets were closed for the Easter Monday holiday. To top of page

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