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Pre-Market: Sprint Eyeing T-Mobile for Takeover; Google's Robot Future 'Looking Awesome'


Will the government permit more consolidation in the mobile carrier space?

Stock futures posted gains today as overseas manufacturing and services data brightened the mood before the Federal Reserve's crucial vote on quantitative easing tomorrow.

After Friday's mixed session, Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) futures were up 0.48% at 15,777.00 before the opening bell on Monday. After suffering its biggest weekly decline in almost four months last week, S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) futures rose 0.50% to 1,777.30. Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) futures climbed 0.48% to 3,469.75.

Markit returned both good and bad results for its preliminary December manufacturing readings. China's PMI unexpectedly slowed down this month, falling to 50.5 from 50.8 as employment and output prices decreased. (Readings over 50 indicate an expansion of the sector.) Economists had expected the number to rise one-tenth of a point. This reading is still an improvement over the third quarter.

The eurozone's business climate improved this month, but the gulf between the two biggest economies is widening. The region as a whole snapped two months of slowdowns, with composite services and manufacturing PMI rising to 52.1 from 51.7. Germany charged ahead at 55.2, up from 54.3. French PMI slipped to 47 from 48.5, the fastest decline since May.

"It's the unbalanced nature of the upturn among member states that is the most worrying," wrote Markit Chief Economist Chris Williamson. "France looks increasingly like the new 'sick man of Europe,' as a second successive monthly contraction may translate into another quarterly decline in GDP, pushing the country back into a technical recession," he said.

America's flash manufacturing PMI reading for this month will be released later this morning. Economists predict that the index will rise to 55 from 54.3 last month. Industrial production in November will be released right after. The consensus estimate for the indicator is for a 0.6% rise in production after October's 0.1% drop. The government also released data showing that non-farm productivity roes 3% in the third quarter while labor costs fell 1.4%.

The quarterly Tankan Survey showed that for the last quarter of 2013, Japanese large manufacturers' business sentiment is the highest it has been in six years. Small manufacturers' sentiment turned positive, rising to 1 from -9. Capital expenditure came in at 4.5, a vast improvement over the previous quarter's 3.3, but below expectations of 5.5.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) announced this weekend that it will acquire Boston Dynamics, a military contractor that builds advanced robots such as Big Dog and Wildcat. The company's robots are capable of running even faster than humans. Andy Rubin, the former Android chief who now heads Google's futurist robot division, tweeted a New York Times story on the acquisition, saying, "The future is looking awesome!" Before the start of trading today, Google shares are up 0.4%.

Shares of Sprint Corporation (NYSE:S), the third-largest mobile carrier in the US, are up 3.5% this morning on reports that it is considering a takeover of T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS). The number-four carrier's shares declined 1%. A takeover could see regulatory headwinds. T-Mobile US just recently acquired Metro PCS, and Sprint was recently bought by Japan's Softbank (OTCMKTS:SFTBF). The Justice Department also recently put the kibosh on a takeover of T-Mobile by AT&T (NYSE:T) on concerns that consumer choice could be hurt by excessive consolidation.

Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE:AMD) shares declined 0.8% in the pre-market today after Oppenheimer analysts cut their rating on the stock to Underperform from Market Perform. The analysts cited the declining consumer PC market as a factor in downgrading the chipmaker.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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