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Wall St shares edge higher, Monsanto bid buoys

Stocks in New York edge higher at midsession on Monday, helped by gains in Monsanto shares following news of a bid from German drug maker Bayer, brushing off earlier hawkish Fed rate comments

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Monsanto helps spruce up the bourse

Stocks in New York edged higher at midsession on Monday, helped by gains in Monsanto (NYSE:MON) following news of a bid from German drug maker Bayer (ETR:BAYN), brushing off earlier hawkish Fed rate comments.

The genetic engineering pioneer's shares were 5.4% higher at $106.99 while Bayer shares ended down 5.7% at EUR84.42 in Frankfurt.

The bellwether S&P 500 was up 0.07% at 2,053, while the S&P Midcap 400 was up 0.04% at 1,450 and led by Unted States Steel (NYSE:X), up 4.8% at $14.00 after its President and CEO Mario Longhi issued a statement in response to letters of support submitted to the International Trade Commission (ITC) , encouraging the ITC to initiate an investigation into the allegations contained in the company's 337 filing against Chinese steel producers.

Meanwhile, the S&P Smallcap 600 was up 0.2% at 682, and led by Lendingtree (NASDAQ:TREE) up 8.75% at $75.08 after TopConsumerReviews.com was announced to have awarded its best-in-class 5 star rating to LendingTree, a Home Equity Loans provider.

Earlier, stocks were depressed after a well-known Federal Reserve hawk talked up the risk of rising inflation - a concept foreign to markets for 15 years - and the need for rate hikes.

A tight US labour market could push inflation up, St. Louis Federal Reserve President  James Bullard said on Monday. US interest rates being kept too low for too long could cause financial instability in future and stronger market expectations for a rate rise are "probably good", he added.

But north American markets were thinner on volumes than usual on account of the Toronto Stock Exchange, TSX Venture Exchange, Montréal Exchange and TSX Alpha Exchange being closed this session for the Victoria Day holiday.


Open

Oil, gold, blue-chip stocks – they were all down in early trading this morning, following the lead of European markets.

The benchmark S&P 500 was down almost half a point at 2,051 in early deals, but the mid-cap measure, the S&P 400, was up a smidgen at 1,451, as was the small-cap gauge, the Russell 2,000, at 1,112.

The oil price continued to ebb after looking last week that it was set to rise back above $50 a barrel. West Texas intermediate for July delivery was down 84 cents at $47.57 a barrel.

The price of gold was also in retreat, down $7.16 at $1,244.82 an ounce.

Shares in English football club Manchester United PLC (NYSE:MANU) rose as it sacked its manager, Louis Van Gaal, just two days after the club has won the Football Association (FA) Cup trophy.

The shares climbed more than 2% to $17.15 on the reports.

Not for the first time this year, however, Manchester United was nowhere near the top of the table, with that honour on the New York Stock Exchange going to Renesola Ltd (ADR), up 15%, after the solar power company's first quarter results.

Net income fell 13.9% from the preceding quarter's $6.7mln to $5.7mln, on revenue of $260.7mln, down 12% quarter-on-quarter, at the bottom end of the company's $260-$270mln guidance range.

On the Nasdaq exchange, the top two risers were both bid stocks.

XenoPort, Inc (NASDAQ:XNPT) soared 57% to $6.90 as the board agreed to recommend acceptance of a $7.03 per share cash offer from Arbor Pharmaceuticals.

Resource America (NASDAQ:REXI) was not far behind, jetting 49% higher to $9.65 as the money manager agreed to a $9.78 a share offer from property services company, C-III Capital Partners.

Away from the bids arena, Cellectar Biosciences Inc (NASDAQ:CLRB) surged 23% to $4.2516 as it said its chief executive, Jim Caruso, would be presenting at the 2016 Marcum MicroCap Conference in New York on 2 June.

Caruso intends to use the conference as a platform to publicise the group's phospholid drug conjugate platform.


Pre-open

Stocks are set to give back some of Friday's gains, as the price of oil drifts back, seemingly daunted by the $50 a barrel barrier.

A disappointing meeting of the Group of Seven (G7) countries, which concluded without agreement on a universal panacea for the global economy's growth problems, is also likely to weigh on sentiment.

“It seems global stocks have been left depressed during trading this month and could continue to follow this fashion as a chaotic mixture of Brexit woes, global instabilities, central bank caution and erratic movements in oil prices leave investors on edge,” suggested Lukman Otunuga, a research analyst at FXTM.

Spread betting quotes point to the Dow Jones average kicking off at around 17,490, 10 points or so down from Friday's close.

The broader-based S&P 500 is seen opening eight-tenths of a point lower at around 2,051.5.

The price of West Texas light, sweet crude for July delivery was off 1.26%, or 61 cents, at $47.80 a barrel, as reports indicate Iran remains committed to cranking up output to 2.2mln barrels of oil per day as quickly as possible.

Oil industry analyst Malcolm Graham-Wood reckons the oil price may have reached a state of equilibrium in the high forties.

“I get the impression that at the moment, without any external momentum there is enough oil on the market to see us through well into the second half of the year, outages state of play and product demand will likely define price movements in the short term,” he said.

Mergers & acquisitions news is set to provide some early excitement at both ends of the corporate scale.

German behemoth Bayer AG has officially launched a $62bn bid for genetically modified foods and seeds specialist Monsanto Company (NYSE:MON), sending the shares of the latter up 7.9% to $109.50 in pre-market trading.

The German drugs giant is offering $122 a share.

At the other end of the scale, shares in asset management company Resource America Inc (NASDAQ:REXI) were suspended, as the company agreed to be acquired by privately-owned C-III Capital Partners, a property services company for $9.78 cash per share. The terms vale Resource America at around $207mln.

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