Caterpillar starts the party on Wall St

Caterpillar's better-than-expected earnings provided reason to start the week on Wall Street in a good mood.

A few M&A deals also fuelled optimism that there's value to be found and that the outlook is positive enough to bet on expansion.

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.87 per cent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 1.22 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 2.21 per cent.

Caterpillar highlighted an earnings season that has been positive so far. About three quarters of the S&P 500 companies that reported results since October 11 surpassed analysts' projections, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News.

Not only did Caterpillar report record revenue for the quarter, it also painted an upbeat picture for 2012. The stock soared more than 6 per cent.

"When a big-name company like this reports numbers like these, that will help turn around talk about another recession," Andrew Bodner, president of Double Diamond Investment Group in Parsippany, New Jersey, told Reuters.

"News like this, along with the turnaround we've seen in some economic indicators, is why the markets have moved up like they have."

Investors also welcomed some sizeable acquisition deals including Cigna's US$3.8 billion takeover of HealthSpring and Oracle's US$1.5 billion agreement to buy RightNow Technologies.

Meanwhile, Google has talked to at least two private-equity firms about potentially helping them finance a deal to buy Yahoo's core business, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Another positive indicator was FedEx forecasting a 12 per cent jump in holiday shipments this year. The company said it would add about 20,000 workers to handle the record volume driven by online shopping.

"This is slightly better than we anticipated," and suggests some restocking by retailers as well as more online shopping by consumers, Dahlman Rose & Co analyst Jason Seidl, told Reuters.

"The economy right now is not as bad as some people had feared, though I wouldn't say it's going great guns, and this is also an indication that a lot of retailers kept inventories low and the consumer is not totally in the dumps."

Across the pond, the Stoxx Europe 600 index advanced 1.3 per cent as the debate over the best way to solve the European Union's debt crisis continued.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek backing from the country's lawmakers to bolster the euro bailout fund on the same day she heads to a European summit, Bloomberg reported.

- BusinessDesk

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