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Merger Talk Pushes Stocks Slightly Higher

Associated Press
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page E03

NEW YORK, March 14 -- Wall Street managed a moderate gain Monday in a volatile session that saw investors alternating between worries about interest rates and delight in a new wave of merger deals.

News of a successor to Michael D. Eisner at Walt Disney Co. and a new chief executive at American International Group lifted stocks, as did planned acquisitions by Altria Group and International Business Machines.

However, the gains were muted by the inflation worries that sent stocks falling last week, as Federal Reserve board member Janet Yellen warned that rising interest rates could hurt borrowers.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 30.15, or 0.28 percent, to 10,804.51.

Broader stock indicators also moved higher. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was up 6.75, or 0.56 percent, at 1206.83, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 9.44, or 0.46 percent, to 2051.04.

Disney shares rose 43 cents, to $28.02, after an announcement that company president Robert A. Iger would take over for Eisner a year earlier than planned.

AIG lost 86 cents, to $63.85, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg could be stepping down.

Office Depot named AutoZone chief executive Steve Odland as its new chairman and chief executive. Shares rose $1.56, to $20.75, on the news.

Altria climbed 3 cents, to $69.17, after announcing a bid for an Indonesian tobacco company. IBM said it would buy Ascential Software and gained 39 cents, to $91.90, while Ascential rose $2.59, to $18.29.

Qwest Communications International rose 6 cents, to $3.91, after news reports said the company would sweeten its $8 billion offer for MCI. MCI was up 9 cents, at $24.18, while Verizon edged a penny higher to $36.08.

Other Indicators

• The New York Stock Exchange composite index rose 23.46, to 7353.89; the American Stock Exchange index fell 0.80, to 1482.59; and the Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks rose 3.46, to 630.30.

• Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones by 9 to 8 on the NYSE, where trading volume fell to 1.43 billion shares, from 1.45 billion on Friday. On the Nasdaq Stock Market, advancers outnumbered decliners by 8 to 7 and volume totaled 1.68 billion, down from 1.77 billion.

• The price of the Treasury's 10-year note rose $2.19 per $1,000 invested, and its yield fell to 4.51 percent, from 4.54 percent on Friday.

• The dollar rose against the Japanese yen and the euro. In late New York trading, a dollar bought 104.93 yen, up from 103.88 late Friday, and a euro bought $1.3368, down from $1.3459.

• Light, sweet crude oil for April delivery settled at $54.95, up $0.52, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

• Gold for current delivery fell to $441.10 a troy ounce, from $446.20 on Friday, on the New York Mercantile Exchange's Commodity Exchange.

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