US STOCKS-Wall St set to rise after Cyprus deal, S&P nears record

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 25, 2013 13:10 hrs

* Cyprus solution removes a hurdle to stocks' upward move

* Dell says two new proposals could be superior to take-private deal

* Apollo Group beats estimates, shares jump

* S&P 500 about 0.5 pct away from closing high record

* Futures up: Dow 31 pts, S&P 6 pts, Nasdaq 14.5 pts

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, March 25 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to edge higher at the open on Monday after negotiators reached a deal hours before a deadline to keep Cyprus afloat with a financial bailout and avert the country's possible exit from the euro zone.

The deal between Cyprus and the heads of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund will spare the Mediterranean island a likely banking collapse by winding down the largely state-owned Popular Bank of Cyprus and shifting deposits below 100,000 euros to the Bank of Cyprus to create a "good bank."

"The problems in Cyprus had held the market back a little bit, so I guess there will be some relief. This takes away one of the hurdles for moving higher," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The rise in futures sets the S&P 500 index up to make a new run at its record high. The benchmark index ended last week down 0.2 percent, only its second negative week of the year. At 1,556.89, it is slightly more than 0.5 percent away from breaking its record close of 1,565.15 set in October 2007.

Meckler said a record high on the S&P amid a low interest-rate environment would likely lure more investors into equities, serving as a catalyst to move equities even higher.

A lack of major market-moving economic indicators in the United States on Monday will keep investors focused on developments in Cyprus.

S&P 500 futures rose 6 points and were slightly above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 31 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 14.5 points.

Dell Inc said it received alternative proposals from Blackstone and billionaire investor Carl Icahn that could be superior to the $24.4 billion offer from founder Michael Dell and private equity fund Silver Lake Partners last month. Dell shares rose 3.3 percent in premarket trading.

Merger and acquisition activity has been another of the reasons for the stellar performance of stocks so far this year.

Bank of America Corp Chief Executive Brian Moynihan must hold shares likely worth millions of dollars for at least a year after he retires under a new compensation policy that the bank instituted following investor pressure. The bank's shares edged up 1.2 percent in premarket trading.

University of Phoenix owner Apollo Group rose 9.2 percent to $18.60 in premarket trading after it reported a better-than-expected profit even as student sign-ups fell for the fourth straight quarter.

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