Wall Street set for flat open after Freeport-McMoRan deal


Wall Street was set for a flat open on Wednesday as a drop in shares of Freeport-McMoRan premarket following acquisition announcements offset optimism about a global economic recovery spurred by comments from China's new leader.

Shares of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc took a hit after the company said it was acquiring Plains Exploration & Production Co and McMoRan Exploration Co in two separate deals for $9 billion in cash and stock. Freeport-McMoRan shares fell 13.2 percent to $33.25 in premarket trading.

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Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping said the country would maintain its fine-tuning of economic policies in 2013 to ensure stable economic growth. That sparked a rally in Chinese shares. Among his key priorities, Xi listed tax reform, urbanization and allowing the market to play a bigger role in setting resource prices.

"Investors' bullish receptors were earlier tickled by overnight events in China, where the new leadership announced a drive towards 'urbanization', which means more infrastructure investment," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

"At the same time, rules preventing insurance companies from taking a larger stake in banking companies were relaxed."

Weighing on market sentiment was data that showed U.S. private-sector employers added 118,000 jobs in November, shy of economists' expectations.

Other data due later in the day include factory orders and ISM's November non-manufacturing index, both at 10:00 a.m. ET (1500 GMT).

Freeport said it would buy Plains for $6.9 billion in cash and stock. It would buy McMoRan Exploration for $2.1 billion cash after taking into account the stake in McMoRan that Freeport already owns.

Shares of McMoRan Exploration soared 75 percent to $14.81 in premarket trading, and Plains Exploration & Production shares also jumped 25 percent to $45.26.

Nokia is to partner with China Mobile <0941.HK>, the world's biggest operator, to launch a version of its flagship Lumia smartphone tailored for the world's largest market. U.S.-listed shares of Nokia rose 3.2 percent to $3.55 in premarket trading.

S&P 500 futures rose 1.4 points and were in line with fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 30 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures lost 1.5 points.

Travelers Companies Inc said its initial estimate of losses from storm Sandy is about $650 million after tax. The company intends to resume repurchases of its common shares that had been temporarily suspended following the storm.

Pandora Media Inc lowered its fourth-quarter earnings forecast, blaming a pull-back by advertisers on concerns about the U.S. budget, but analysts suggested it was due more to increasing competition.

The U.S. Senate voted 98-0 on Tuesday to approve a wide-ranging defense bill that authorizes $631.4 billion in funding for the U.S. military, the war in Afghanistan and nuclear weapons.

Walt Disney gave a much needed boost to Netflix , becoming the first major Hollywood studio to use the video service to bypass premium channels like HBO that traditionally controlled the delivery of movies to TV subscribers.

The U.S. securities regulator is investigating a $10 million stock sale in March by Steven Fishman, chief executive of close-out retailer Big Lots Inc , who announced his retirement on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the inquiry.

U.S. stocks finished slightly lower in quiet trading Tuesday as the back-and-forth wrangling over the U.S. budget gave investors little reason to act.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)