US STOCKS-Futures higher as Ukraine concern eases; M&A boost

Mon Aug 18, 2014 8:01am EDT

* Dollar General offers to buy Family Dollar

* Russia says humanitarian convoy issue resolved, but no ceasefire

* Futures up: Dow 88 pts, S&P 10.5 pts, Nasdaq 22 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Aug 18 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were higher on Monday, as the threat of an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine appeared to lessen and the latest round of merger action supported equities.

* Russia said all issues related to it sending a humanitarian convoy to Ukraine had been resolved but said no progress has been made in talks toward a ceasefire or political solution to the fighting in the east of the country after talks between Russia, Germany, France and Ukraine on Sunday.

* But the region remained unsettled as Ukraine accused pro-Russian rebels on Monday of hitting a refugee convoy of buses with rocket fire near the eastern city of Luhansk, but the separatists denied responsibility.

* Merger and acquisition action continues to flourish. Discount retailer Dollar General Corp offered to buy Family Dollar Stores Inc for $8.95 billion, trumping an offer by Dollar Tree Inc. Family Dollar shares gained 5.2 percent to $80 before the opening bell while Dollar General jumped 7.9 percent to $62.

* Sensors and electrical controls maker Sensata Technologies Holding NV said it would buy the Schrader group of companies for an enterprise value of $1 billion.

* Ingersoll-Rand Plc, a maker of heating and air conditioning systems, said it would buy Cameron International Corp's centrifugal compression unit for $850 million.

* S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 10.5 points and fair value - a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract - indicated a higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 88 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 22 points.

* In a relatively light week for economic data, investors will closely monitor the Aug. 21-23 annual meeting of top central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for possible insight about the path for monetary policy in the months ahead.

* Earnings season will effectively draw to a close this week with the results from a host of retailers, including Home Depot , Target Corp and Gap Inc.

* According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday, of the 466 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings, 68 percent have topped analyst expectations, besting the 63 beat rate since 1994 and the 67 percent rate for the past four quarters.

* European shares were higher on the Ukraine situation but Asian stocks stalled after notching their biggest weekly rise in nearly five months last week. (Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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