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Stocks were in the green, once again, today as a slew of positive economic reports combined with news that a potential deal between Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) is in the works. However, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) gave back much of its gains late in the session, as Syria tensions simmered again. The blue chips finished up 16 points, or 0.1%.
After hours, the British Parliament voted against military action in Syria, though President Obama indicated he was willing to carry out solo strikes against the Syrian government after it used chemical weapons against its own people. The President will present his case to Congress tonight.
This morning, revised GDP data showed the economy grew by 2.5%, instead of the 1.7% that the Commerce Department had reported in its first estimate. The revised estimate was also above market expectations of 2.1%. While the data is good news for the economy, it may also hasten the Fed's decision to pull back its bond-buying program, fears of which have been the driver of much of investors' recent selling. GDP growth will be revised once more at the end of September. Elsewhere, initial unemployment claims fell 1.8%, to 331,000, last week, essentially in line with estimates, keeping the four-week moving average near a six-year low, at 331,250.
As alluded to above, Verizon was the Dow's biggest winner, finishing up 2.7%, while its Verizon Wireless partner Vodafone jumped 8.1% as the American telecom appears to be on its way to purchasing the 45% of its joint wireless venture that Vodafone owns. The U.S.'s No. 1 wireless provider has for years expressed its desire to be the sole owner of the wireless division, and that need has only grown as the industry has consolidated recently, with T-Mobile merging with MetroPCS, Softbank taking a majority stake in Sprint, and AT&T acquiring Leap Wireless.
The two telecom giants have not yet agreed on a price, but, according to The Wall Street Journal, Verizon was in the process of lining up financing from major banks as the price tag could hit $130 billion, making it one of the biggest M&A deals ever. Rising interest rates have also brought a sense of urgency to the deal. As the market's reaction indicates, a deal seems to be in both companies' interests, as Verizon would have greater control of its market-leading wireless division, and Vodafone would get a cash infusion to strengthen its position in the UK and Europe, or return to shareholders.
On the losing end, ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) dropped 1.8% after gaining more than 2% yesterday, as oil prices retreated today. With the scope of the Syrian conflict potentially widening, and oil prices already high, Exxon looks like it's in the middle of a much-needed windfall quarter.
Fool contributor Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Vodafone. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.