* Wall St opens higher on M&A activity; S&P extends
seven-week winning streak
* Google shares hit all-time high at $804
* European shares gain after strong German data
* Yen gains as Japan officials' rift muddles policy view
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Feb 19 Global stock markets rose on
Tuesday, with U.S. stocks boosted by merger and acquisition
activity, while a pick-up in German economic sentiment supported
But Wall Street's gains were capped as the S&P 500
hovered near a five-year high, extending its seven-week winning
streak. Investors scrambled for new catalysts to push the market
higher, with the benchmark index already up 7 percent for the
In Europe, shares chalked up their strongest gains in a week
after losing around 1.5 percent since the end of January.
Following last week's GDP figures showing a weaker-than-expected
end to 2012 in the euro zone, Germany's ZEW survey of investors
and analysts brightened the mood as it comfortably beat
expectations and hit its highest level since April 2010.
In the currency market, the yen climbed after two days of
losses after Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said he was not
considering foreign bond purchases.
Boosting the U.S. market, Google shares rose more
than 1 percent to an all-time high of $804.00.
Office Depot Inc, the No. 2 U.S. office supply
retailer, was said to be in advanced talks to merge with smaller
rival OfficeMax Inc and a deal could come as early as
this week. Office Depot shares surged 14 percent to $5.24 and
OfficeMax shares jumped 25 percent to $13.46. Shares of larger
rival Staples Inc also shot up 12 percent to $14.49.
"Equity investors have to be encouraged by M&A, since if the
number crunchers are offering large premiums, that shows how
much value is still in the market," said Mike Gibbs, co-head of
the equity advisory group at Raymond James in Memphis,
More than $158 billion in U.S. deals have been announced
thus far in 2013. Last week, deals were reached for the
acquisition of H.J. Heinz Co by Berkshire Hathaway
and the sale by General Electric of its
remaining stake in NBCUniversal to Comcast Corp.
MSCI's world equity index was up 0.6
percent, though markets have been falling for two weeks since a
big run-up in January.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 54.03 points,
or 0.39 percent, at 14,035.79. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 7.75 points, or 0.51 percent, at 1,527.54. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 11.29 points, or 0.35
percent, at 3,203.32.
The FTSEurofirst 300 rose 1.1 percent, led by a 2
percent gain on Paris' CAC-40 and a 1.7 percent rise for
The yen rose after Japan's Aso said he was not considering
buying foreign bonds as part of efforts to ease monetary policy,
a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said this was an option.
That highlighted the open disagreement between the two
Japanese officials, which has somewhat muddled the outlook for
the country's monetary policy and created two-way risk for
Markets still expect Japan to ease policy aggressively -- a
negative for the yen -- but the approach is less clear-cut,
which could slow the currency's fall.
In addition, although Japan was not singled out at this
weekend's Group of 20 meeting for monetary and fiscal measures
that have resulted in yen weakness, Choi Hee Nam, South Korea's
director-general at its finance ministry, said Japan's policies
were not endorsed by the group and did spark controversy,
according to a report from Bloomberg News.
"Developments in the past few days highlight the fact that
there are internal rifts on the policy approach and there may be
external constraints on what sort of easing measures Japan's
partners will deem acceptable," said Shaun Osborne, chief
currency strategist at TD Securities in Toronto.
He added that near-term downside risks loom large for the
dollar against the yen.
The dollar fell 0.4 percent to 93.61 yen, well below
a peak of 94.22 yen hit on Monday after Japan escaped direct
criticism from its G20 peers over the weekend. However, it
remained above chart support at 93.38 yen, the 200-hour moving
The euro was down 0.2 percent against the yen at 125.18 yen
U.S. Treasury debt was little changed. The benchmark 10-year
U.S. Treasury note was up 1/32, the yield at 2.0017
Brent crude oil fell for a third session in a row on signs
of lackluster European growth and easing geopolitical tensions.
Brent crude for April delivery was down 45 cents at
$116.93 per barrel. U.S. crude for March was little
changed at $95.79 a barrel.