North American stock indexes opened mixed and slightly lower, and while the New York Stock Exchange was having a quiet morning overall, shares in its owner were skyrocketing.
IntercontinentalExchange agreed to an $8.2-billion (U.S.) deal this morning to buy New York Stock Exchange owner NYSE Euronext for $33.12 per share in stock and cash. That's a 37 per cent premium to its Wednesday closing price.
NYSE Euronext shares in early trading were just shy of that level, at $32.42, a gain of 34.8 per cent.
The deal will help ICE to compete against archrival CME Group, although the company will look at selling the NYSE's European stock market business in an initial public offering after the deal closes in the second half of next year.
For stocks in general today, however, the focus isn't on consolidation, but rather the separation of the two major political forces in the U.S., as the "fiscal cliff" talks drag on.
In early trading, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 27 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 12,376; the S&P 500 was down about half a point at 1,435; and the Dow Jones industrial average was down 11 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 13,240.
The latest signals aren't very encouraging for a quick settlement on resolving the crisis before the more than $600-billion in automated tax increases and spending cuts are set to kick in Jan. 1.
House Republicans later today will vote on Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise taxes on incomes over $1-million. But that proposal was already met with a cool reception from Democrats. Officials from President Barack Obama's administration reportedly told leaders of business and financial services groups on Wednesday that negotiations with Mr. Boehner have deteriorated.
It now seems quite possible that negotiations may continue into next week, typically a period of rest in Washington.
U.S. economic data this morning didn't have much immediate sway on markets, although they were generally favourable. U.S. gross domestic product for the third quarter was revised upwards to 3.1 per cent, better than the 2.8 per cent growth economists forecast. U.S. jobless claims for last week rose 17,000 to 361,000, but that was close to expectations. November existing home sales rose a better-than-forecast 5.9 per cent to an annual rate of 5.04 million. And the Philadelphia Fed survey surprisingly showed expansion of manufacturing activity in December, with an 8.1 reading, compared with the negative 3 contraction forecast by economists.
Here in Canada, retail sales rose 0.7 per cent in October from September, beating economists' expectations for a rise of 0.2 per cent. Not including auto sales, sales rose 0.5 per cent.
Here's a look at some other stocks moving on early news today:
Oracle has agreed to buy software company Eloqua for $23.50 per share, or about $871-million (U.S.). Oracle shares are up 0.2 per cent in early trading; Eloqua is up 31 per cent.
Carnival shares are down nearly 5 per cent after reporting adjusted fourth-quarter net profit of 13 cents a share, down from 28 cents a year ago.
Bombardier shares are up nearly 2 per cent after announcing it has a firm deal to sell at least 10 of its new C Series passenger jets to AirBaltic. The deal, the second major order for the C Series this week, could be worth up to $1.57-billion.