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The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) has pared a modest portion of Friday's losses, though the index has come well off of its intraday highs after the U.S. slapped Russia with another round of sanctions. A string of merger-and-acquisition announcements has bolstered optimism about the collective health of corporate balance sheets, with Pfizer Inc.'s (NYSE:PFE) pursuit of AstraZeneca plc (ADR) (NYSE:AZN) dominating headlines. In economic news, the National Association of Realtors' pending home sales index increased by a bigger-than-anticipated 3.4% in March, marking the first uptick in nine months, while Dallas-area manufacturers are producing at the fastest rate in four years. After enjoying a 139-point uptick earlier in the session, the Dow has since trimmed its lead to 44.7 points, or 0.3%, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite (COMP) has backpedaled into the red.
Here are a few noteworthy stats at midday:
- The equity put/call volume ratio across all 12 options exchanges is currently perched at 0.85, with calls outpacing puts. So far today, 3.84 million calls have changed hands, compared to 3.29 million puts.
- One name seeing heavy call trading today is real estate concern Northstar Realty Finance Corp. (NYSE:NRF), which is up 10.6% at $17.73 amid reports that American Realty Capital Properties Inc (NASDAQ:ARCP) is in talks to buy the firm (subscription required) for roughly $6.4 billion. Earlier in the session, NRF tagged a seven-year high of $17.93. So far, nearly 97% of today's option volume has traded on the call side.
- The advance/decline ratio on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands at 1.23, with advancing stocks outpacing the declining issues.
- One of the biggest upward movers on the Big Board so far today is convenience store operator Susser Holdings Corporation (NYSE:SUSS), which has rocketed 36.7% higher to $77.98, after a $1.8 billion bid from Energy Transfer Partners LP (NYSE:ETP). The cash offer of $80.25 per share represents a 41% premium to SUSS' closing price of $57.03 on Friday. As such, SUSS rallied to an all-time acme of $80 earlier today.
- The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) is up 0.4 point, or 2.7%, at 14.44, bouncing back from an intraday breach of 14.
- Today's put/call volume ratio on the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEARCA:VXX) stands at 0.53, with call volume nearly doubling put volume so far. The ETN has shed 1.5% at midday to $41.20.
View a real-time chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI).