U.S. Stocks Open Higher Amid China Talks, Deals

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks opened higher on Tuesday, as investors found comfort in talks aimed at easing economic tensions between the U.S. and China and signs that deal making continues unabated, this time amid buyout talk in the casino industry.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 4 points to 13,546, as 16 of its 30 components advanced, led by Alcoa Inc. , Intel Corp. , and Merck & Co. Inc. .

Investors also cheered crude oil falling back below $66 a barrel. On Monday, crude futures had rallied as violence in Nigeria, Lebanon and Israel, along with concerns over supply led oil to a three-session win of 6%.

"The focus on M & A activity and global growth outweighed the rally in crude," said Marc Pado, market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald. "However, an appreciation of the dollar, should it persist, could weigh on those large-cap multinational stocks, which have led this bull market really."

Amid a slowing U.S. economy, investors have piled into the stocks of multinationals which derive profits overseas and benefit from a weaker dollar when they convert earnings.

The S&P 500 gained 0.1 point to 1,525, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.6 points to 2,579.

More deals

MGM Mirage jumped 26% to $79.29. Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian's firm Tracinda Corp. said it's in talks to buy two of MGM's best-known Las Vegas landmarks, the Bellagio and CityCenter.

Elsewhere, subprime mortgage lender Fremont General said it's proposing to sell its commercial real estate lending business and outstanding loan portfolio to iStar Financial for $1.9 billion.

Whole Foods Markets extended its tender offer for Wild Oats Markets to June 20 from May 22. Whole Foods agreed to buy Wild Oats for roughly $565 million. It noted that members of the Federal Trade Commission staff voiced concerns about perceived anticompetitive effects. The FTC hasn't decided whether to challenge the deal.

Harbinger offered to buy 40.8 million shares it doesn't already own in OpenWave Systems for $8.30 a share. The fund manager plans to recommend replacing the company's management and board and then buying BridgePort.

China takes center stage

With no key economic reports Tuesday, markets will be paying close attention to talks between U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Chinese government officials. China last week widened the daily trading band for the yuan against the dollar in what many saw as a symbolic gesture.

The Chinese government also in an unprecedented move said it would put $3 billion of its massive foreign exchange holdings to work by investing in The Blackstone Group, a leveraged buyout firm preparing an initial public offering.

Other markets

The dollar was nearly flat against key rivals. Gold fell slightly, along with crude oil, and Treasury bonds fell back, sending yields higher.

Corporate news

After the closing bell, Computer Sciences , Medtronic and Analog Devices are due to report results.

Pacific Sunwear , the teen-apparel retailer, said first-quarter sales surpassed expectations.

Dynegy dropped 4.7% after Chevron said it would sell 96.9 million Class A shares in an underwritten offering.

Staples reported a 12% profit rise on 8% sales growth in the first quarter, helped by sales of laptop computers.

Tech Data reported a 23% profit decline but 9% sales growth, while Autozone reported a 5% profit rise on 4% sales growth.

By Nick Godt