RealTime IT News

Stocks Set for Solid Start

Stocks appear ready to start the new year on a high note.

While U.S. stock markets were closed Tuesday on a day of national mourning for former President Gerald Ford, electronic futures climbed sharply on better than expected December sales at Wal-Mart and a strong rally in Europe.

Checkfree's acquisition of Carreker , announced Tuesday, could give investors hope that 2006's M&A craze can continue into the new year. In other merger news, Fairchild Semi launched a $200 million bid for Taiwan's System General on Monday, and the approval late Friday of the AT&T-BellSouth merger could also brighten investors' moods.

Amazon will also be in focus when trading resumes on Wednesday after Citigroup downgraded the stock to sell on valuation concerns. Analyst Mark Mahaney also upgraded IAC InterActiveCorp .

Friday movers Alltel — up big on takeover speculation — and Apple , which gained on hopes that Steve Jobs will survive the company's stock option scandal, could also attract interest once traders return from the long holiday weekend.

In morning trade Tuesday, S&P 500 futures were 9 points higher and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 14 points.