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Wall Street hotter than July at halfway mark


As Wall Street hits July's halfway point, the Dow and S&P 500 are on pace for their largest monthly gains since January, while the Nasdaq Composite could chalk up its best month since January 2012. That follows the second best weekly gains of 2013 for stocks last week.


The remainder of the month is likely to defend on ongoing Fed comment about the future of quantitative easing as well as earnings season. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to give his semi-annual testimony before Congress Wednesday and Thursday, while the pace of corporate earnings picks up rapidly over the next few weeks.


Citigroup (C) will be out with its quarterly numbers before today's opening bell, while Cintas (CTAS) and JB Hunt (JBHT) are among the companies issuing earnings reports after today's closing bell.


The first economic report of the week will come at 8:30 a.m. ET, as the government issues retail sales for June. Economists are looking for a rise of 0.8 percent, following May's 0.6 percent increase. The New York Fed will be out with its Empire State index at the same time, seen falling to 4.3 for July from 7.84 in June.


At 10 a.m. ET, the May report on business inventories is expected to show that inventories were unchanged after April's 0.3 percent rise.


Leap Wireless (LEAP) leads our list of stocks to watch, with the prepaid wireless provider agreeing to be acquired by AT&T (T) for $15 per share in cash, or about $1.2 billion. The deal represents an 88 percent premium to Friday's close.


Ryder (R) has increased its quarterly dividend to $0.34 per share from 40.31. The transportation company's increased dividend will be payable on September 20 to shareholders of record on August 19.


Dell's (DELL) special committee has issued another statement in response to investor Carl Icahn's latest proposal, saying it has "substantial reservations". The committee does say it's willing to meet with or talk to Icahn about his ideas, but continues to recommend shareholders vote for the $13.65 per share buyout offer put forth by founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners.


Boeing (BA) shares could get a bounce today, after investigators determined that the Friday fire on a 787 Dreamliner aircraft at Heathrow Airport was not caused by a battery issue.


Alexion Pharmaceuticals (ALXN) could get another bounce today, with Reuters now reporting that Switzerland's Roche is seeking financing for a possible Alexion bid. The stock had risen Friday following a Bloomberg News report that such a bid was in the offing.


McKesson (MCK) finds itself in the crosshairs of proxy advisor ISS, which is urging shareholders to vote against re-election of four of the drug distribution company's directors. ISS is telling shareholders the company has persistently failed to address concerns about executive compensation.


General Electric (GE) is preparing a $5.3 billion bid for British engineering firm Invensys, according to London's Sunday Times. Such an offer would top last week's bid from France's Schneider Electric.


Taylor Capital Group (TAYC) is being bought by rival commercial bank MB Financial (MBFI) for $22 per share in cash and stock, or about $680 million. The deal represents a 26 percent premium to Taylor's Friday closing price.


BlackBerry (BBRY) is seeing prices of its new Z10 smartphone discounted by as much as 75 percent by major carriers like AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless. The Wall Street Journal reports that a discount this soon after launch suggests the phone is not selling well.