On The Fly: Top stock stories at midday

Stocks opened sharply higher, with the Dow and S&P posting new all-time highs at the open after the Senate passed its version of a tax reform bill on Saturday morning. Since the open the Dow and S&P have moved in a narrow range, but they are currently off their best levels. The Nasdaq, which was weaker at the start but still in positive ground, has given up all its gains and crossed into negative territory amid a rotation from one of this year's winningest sectors into areas of the market that may stand to benefit most from tax reform. ECONOMIC EVENTS: In the U.S., the Senate narrowly passed the Republican's tax reform legislation following a marathon voting session this weekend. This moves the process forward to the next stage, which will be the reconciliation of the differences between the House and Senate tax reform proposals. On the domestic data front, factory orders slipped 0.1% in October, versus the consensus forecast for them to have been down 0.4% for the month. Durable goods orders were down 0.8% in October, versus expectations for them to have declined 1.1%. COMPANY NEWS: Shares of CVS Health (CVS) are down over 5.5% after the retail pharmacy and PBM operator confirmed it has struck a deal to buy health insurer Aetna (AET) for $207 per share in cash and stock, or approximately $69B. Including the assumption of Aetna's debt, the total value of the transaction is $77B. Upon closing of the transaction, Aetna shareholders will own approximately 22% and CVS Health shareholders will own approximately 78% of the combined company... In other M&A news, Broadcom (AVGO) went hostile in its pursuit of Qualcomm (QCOM), announcing it will nominate a slate of 11 individuals for election to Qualcomm's board. In response, Qualcomm called this a "blatant attempt to seize control" in order to advance Broadcom's acquisition agenda. MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was General Cable (BGC), which surged 35% after it agreed to be acquired by Prysmian Group for $30 per share. Also higher was Blue Apron (APRN), which gained 18% after Barclays analyst Ross Sandler upgraded the stock to Equal Weight from Underweight, saying the risk/reward appears more favorable. Among the notable losers was Ra Pharmaceuticals (RARX), which fell by over 37% after it said that its trial of RA101495 SC met its primary endpoint. Following the news, Piper Jaffray analyst Christopher Raymond said that the data "underwhelms on efficacy" compared to Alexion's (ALXN) Soliris. Also lower was IPG Photonics (IPGP), which slid 7% after it announced it acquired Laser Depth Dynamics. INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was up 215.71, or 0.89%, to 24,447.30, the Nasdaq was down 23.48, or 0.34%, to 6,824.11, and the S&P 500 was up 14.01, or 0.53%, to 2,656.23.

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