U.S. Futures Modestly Higher on Light Pre-Holiday Volume

by: SA Eli Hoffmann

U.S. stock market futures posted modest gains in overnight trading ahead of a half-day pre-holiday Monday.

News stocks included Alcoa Inc. (NYSE:AA), which said late Friday it will sell its packaging and consumer businesses to New Zealand’s Rank Group for $2.7 billion in cash (full story).

Shares of Merrill Lynch (MER) were up 3.3% on news its will sell its commercial finance division, Merrill Lynch Capital, to GE Capital, a subsidiary of General Electric (NYSE:GE). The Wall Street Journal also reported Merrill is close to finalizing a deal with Singapore's Temasek Holdings for a $4.4B capital investment in exchange for about a 10% stake in the firm (full story).

It was rumored Sunday Swiss bank UBS (NYSE:UBS) might face regulatory scrutiny in Switzerland, although a later report downplayed the legal implications of the probe (full story). Israel generic drugmaker Teva said it would launch a copy of Wyeth's ulcer drug Protonix, and boosted its guidance on that basis (full story). Online retail numbers released over the weekend were up 19% from a year ago, with appliances and furniture purchases outselling luxury items like jewelry. Some worry the sales boost is at the expense of heavy-duty discounts (full story).

Asian markets posted healthy pre-holiday gains; Japan was closed for a public holiday (full story).

Barron's panned Consolidated Water (NASDAQ:CWCO) over the weekend (full story). Stocks it liked included Robert Half (RHI, full story), Trex (TWP, full story), preferred shares (full story) and mobile broadband players like Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) (Expect Huge Mobile Broadband Growth).

The Wall Street Journal said Monday a consortium including JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) and Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) plans to launch a competitor to CME's (NASDAQ:CME) Chicago Mercantile Exchange in some of its most lucrative futures contracts (full story).

In lighter-than-usual overnight trading, S&P futures are up 2.5 points, Dow futures are up 17, Nasdaq futures are up 0.75 points, February crude is higher by $0.30, and gold futures are about $1 higher than Friday's close, as of 8:30 a.m. ET.

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