U.S. Stocks Open Higher Amid More Deal News

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks opened firmly higher on Wednesday, as a stream of deal making news continued to fuel buying interest, this time with speculation in the metals and media sectors.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 26 points at 13,565, as 20 of its 30 components advanced, led by the likes of Caterpillar Inc. , Home Depot Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. .

Alcoa Inc. led the gains, rising 2.9%.

Alcan late Tuesday rejected the $27 billion hostile offer from the Dow-component. Alcan jumped 3.4%.

Separately, a newspaper report said that BHP Billiton has held early-stage talks with Alcan. Rio Tinto , which has also been rumored to be a target for BHP and for private equity interest, gained 1.6%.

Also, Russia's Norilsk Nickel launched a new $6.25 billion offer for Canadian miner LionOre, topping an offer from Xstrata by 10%.

The S&P 500 index gained 4.4 points to 1,528, while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 4 points to 2,592.

In the media sector, members of the Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones , are reportedly due to discuss the News Corp. takeover bid at a meeting. Dow Jones owns MarketWatch, which publishes this report.

In other deal news, Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. agreed to be acquired by funds managed by Morgan Stanley Real Estate for $22.80 per share in a deal valued at roughly $6.5 billion, including debt. The offer represents a 5.5% premium over Crescent's closing share price on Tuesday.

Payless ShoeSource said it would buy Stride Rite for $800 million.

Other markets

With key U.S.-China economic talks entering their second day, investors will expect a statement to come out of Washington. Wall Street has viewed the talks as positive in easing rising trade tensions between China and the U.S.

With no major economic data on tap until durable goods and housing data on Thursday.

The dollar was down slightly against major counterparts.

Crude oil was little changed ahead of supply data expected to show a build in gasoline inventories. A barrel was recently up 2 cents at $65.53.

Corporate news

There are a number of retailers due to report quarterly results.

Target posted better-than-expected earnings of 75 cents a share but its revenue, at $14.04 billion, fell short of estimates. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected on average, first-quarter earnings of 71 cents a share on revenue of $14.17 billion.

Abercrombie & Fitch and Limited Brands are also due to report results.

Standard & Poor's said it would add Memc Electronic Materials Inc. to the S&P 500, replacing Kinder Morgan Inc., on a date to be announced.

Analog Devices could fall after reporting a 14% profit decline and saying current quarter earnings will be below market estimates.

Elsewhere, Medtronic rose 2.6% after the company's quarterly earnings and revenue outstripped analyst estimates.

CA and Network Appliance also are due to report quarterly results.

Forest Laboratories Inc. and Cypress Bioscience Inc. said a Phase III study of the company's milnacipran drug showed significant therapeutic effects in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome.

By Nick Godt