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Deal news could lift stocks

Futures point higher as Microsoft gives Yahoo deadline, Novartis buys eye-care firm, and reports of deals at WaMu, Delta and Northwest.

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Markets were pointing higher as investors weigh reports of several major corporate deals in the works and awaited the start of earnings season.

At 7 a.m. ET futures were pointing higher, indicating a strong start for markets.

Over the weekend Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) gave Internet bellwether Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) a three-week deadline to agree to a takeover or face a proxy fight for control of the company. Yahoo's board responded early Monday that it is not opposed to a deal, but does not believe Microsoft's current offer is in the best interest of shareholders. Microsoft shares were 2% higher in early trading in Frankfurt trading, while Yahoo shares were 0.5% higher.

Swiss pharmaceutical maker Novartis (NVS) said Monday it is buying a quarter of eye-care company Alcon (ACL) with an option to buy more than three-quarters of the company in a deal potentially worth $38 billion.

Washington Mutual (WM, Fortune 500), the nation's largest thrift, is in talks to get $5 billion investment from private equity firm TPG, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, while the Financial Times reports that Delta Air Lines (DAL, Fortune 500) and Northwest Airlines (NWA, Fortune 500) have revived their merger talks.

First quarter earnings season kicks off after the close Monday with a report from Dow component Alcoa (AA, Fortune 500).

U.S. stocks ended the day mixed on Friday, as concerns over a weaker than expected March jobs report were balanced by rising hopes that the markets may have found a bottom in recent weeks.

There are no major economic readings Monday, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn and San Francisco Fed President Janet Yellen are both due to speak early Monday evening in San Francisco. Last week Yellen said in a speech that the U.S. economy was in a near stall.

Stocks ended modestly higher in Asia Monday, while major markets in Europe were higher in early trading.

Oil prices gained in early trading, with the price of a barrel of light sweet crude climbing 91 cents to $107.14.  To top of page

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