|12:43 EDT||LTM||On The Fly: Midday Wrap|
Stocks on Wall Street were higher at midday after stimulus talk out of China and a rally in European stock markets lifted the U.S. market at the open. There was little reaction to the day’s domestic economic reports, which included the Empire manufacturing index, industrial production data, and a homebuilder confidence index. The week's big economic news, however, is yet to come, as investors look forward to the conclusion of the Federal Reserve's latest rate setting meeting on Wednesday. ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., the Empire State manufacturing index dipped to 6.9 in March, versus the consensus forecast for a reading of 8.0. Industrial production edged up 0.1% in February, versus expectations for an increase of 0.2%, and capacity utilization fell to 78.9%, versus the 79.5% consensus forecast. The NAHB homebuilder sentiment index dropped to 53 in March from 55 in February, missing expectation for the index to rise to 56. Oil prices continued to tumble, with U.S. crude dropping to a six-year low below $44 per barrel earlier in the session. In Asia, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Sunday that his government has room and the tools to take action should growth falter, without detailing specific remedies the government might pursue. COMPANY NEWS: Valeant (VRX), which not long ago lost out to Actavis (ACT) in the race to buy Allergan (AGN), increased its chances of making sure its latest buyout deal gets done by increasing its takeover offer to Salix Pharmaceuticals (SLXP) by about $1B. Rival bidder Endo Health (ENDP) confirmed that it is withdrawing its cash and stock proposal to acquire Salix after Valeant raised its all-cash bid for Salix to $173 per share from $158 per share. Shares of Valeant and Salix both rose about 2%, while Endo shares gained 2.5% following the announcements. MAJOR MOVERS: Among the notable gainers was Life Time Fitness (LTM), which rose 5% after entering into a definitive agreement to be acquired by private equity firms Leonard Green & Partners and TPG in a transaction valued at more than $4B, or $72.10 per share, in cash. Also higher was Edwards Lifesciences (EW), which rose 8% after the company reported data at this weekend's American College of Cardiology conference. Among the noteworthy losers was iDreamSky (DSKY), which dropped more than 25% after the company lowered its guidance because the launch of a popular casual game was delayed on one of the company distribution platforms and the monetization of another popular casual game was less than expected. Also lower were shares of Enzo Biochem (ENZ), which fell 17% after an appeals court reversed-in-part and vacated-in-part the judgment in Enzo’s favor that Life Technologies' (LIFE) Applera Corp. infringed certain Enzo patents. INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was up 174.81, or 0.98%, to 17,924.12, the Nasdaq was up 39.80, or 0.82%, to 4,911.55, and the S&P 500 was up 20.07, or 0.98%, to 2,073.47.