Rightnow Technologies, Inc. (MM) (NASDAQ:RNOW)
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U.S. stocks rose, pushing the Nasdaq Composite into positive territory for the year, as investors reacted to strong results from Caterpillar, a set of merger announcements and signs of progress toward a debt deal in Europe.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 99 points, or 0.8%, to 11907 in midafternoon action. The Dow surged 267 points on Friday to close at a 2 1/2-month high, stretching its weekly winning streak to four weeks, the longest since January 2011.
Caterpillar was head-and-shoulders above over all other blue-chip stocks, gaining 5.4% after the maker of construction and mining equipment reported third-quarter earnings and revenue that beat expectations. The company raised its outlook for the full year.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 15 points, or 1.2%, to 1253, led by materials, financials and technology stocks. The Nasdaq Composite gained 58 points, or 2.2%, to 2695.
The day brought a spate of deal announcements. Cigna added 0.7% after making a bet on Medicare with a $3.8 billion deal for HealthSpring, which surged 34%. HealthSpring focuses on Medicare Advantage, which provides elderly people Medicare services through private companies.
Oracle rose 1.9% and RightNow Technologies surged 19% after the business-software company said it would buy the cloud-computing firm in a deal valued at $1.43 billion.
Sara Lee sold the majority of its North American food-service coffee and tea operations to J.M. Smucker Co. for $350 million in cash. Sara Lee edged down 0.2% and Smucker shares added 0.7%.
Mattel agreed to buy HIT Entertainment, which sells the Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam toy lines, for $680 million, from a consortium led by Apax Partners funds. The deal also gives Mattel ownership of well-known preschool brands Thomas & Friends and Barney. Mattel rose 2.7%.
Telecom networking systems provider Juniper Networks also fueled merger hopes. The company is looking at potential acquisition targets in Asia, its top executive said in an interview. Shares added 5.5%.
"Merger Monday is keeping a bid under a lot of stocks," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners. "It indicates that we continue to have companies looking for ways to gain revenue that they're not able to get organically."
Prices of key commodities jumped, among them copper. Used in a wide range of industries, the metal is often termed "Dr. Copper" for its sensitivity to the macroeconomic growth outlook. The most actively traded copper contract, for December delivery, recently traded up 21 cents, or 6.5%, to $3.433 a pound on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Crude-oil futures surged 4.5% to $91.30 a barrel. Gold futures rallied 1% to $1651.60 an ounce in recent action.
European stocks finished broadly higher. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 1.3% amid optimism that European leaders were near a deal on expanding the euro zone's bailout fund. Germany's DAX gained 1.4%. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said over the weekend that they had made progress toward a broad agreement on dealing with Europe's debt crisis. The news overshadowed data showing that economic activity in the euro zone's private sector contracted faster than expected this month.
"The markets are realizing that this is a political process," said Wayne Lin, portfolio manager for Legg Mason Global Asset Allocation. "[Investors] realize that this is going to be a long, drawn-out process with fits and starts of market volatility."
Asian markets rose broadly following data showing China's manufacturing sector expanded in October for the first time since March. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index surged 4.1%.
The U.S. dollar lost ground versus the euro and the yen.
In corporate news, Kimberly-Clark lost 5%. The company cut its sales outlook as the maker of Huggies diapers continues to be hampered by weak demand for baby products in developed markets.
WebMD Health jumped 11%. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn on Friday disclosed a 7.9% stake in the online medical information site.
Netflix, which reports results after the closing bell, lost 1%.
-By Brendan Conway, Dow Jones Newswires; (212) 416-2670; firstname.lastname@example.org