(AP) -- U.S. stocks moved higher in early trading Wednesday as investors were encouraged by corporate deal news from ConAgra Foods and railroad operator Norfolk Southern. Energy stocks were among the biggest gainers as the price of oil rose. Traders also were awaiting the release of minutes to the Federal Reserve's last meeting for hints on an expected interest rate increase next month.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average rose 96 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,585 as of 10:03 a.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 11 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,061. The gain moved the S&P 500 back into positive territory for the year. The Nasdaq composite added 27 points, or 0.6 percent, to 5,013.
SPINOFF: ConAgra Foods climbed 3.8 percent early Wednesday after announcing that it would spin off its frozen potatoes business. The stock added $1.46 to $40.86.
BEING COURTED: Norfolk Southern rose 5.9 percent after receiving an unsolicited offer to be bought out by Canadian Pacific. The stock gained $5.13 to $92.10.
FED WATCH: Investors will pore over the minutes to the last Fed meeting, to be released later in the day, for signs that the central bank will raise interest rates next month for the first time in almost a decade. Higher rates tend to weigh on stock markets, but investors have mostly become prepared for the Fed to act in December.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Europe markets were mixed. Germany's DAX was little changed, France's CAC-40 lost 0.5 percent and FTSE 100 edged up 0.1 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.1 percent, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1 percent and Seoul's Kospi was unchanged. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 39 cents to $41.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 60 cents to $44.17 a barrel in London.
BONDS & CURRENCIES: Bond prices fell slightly. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.29 percent from 2.27 percent late Tuesday. The dollar rose to 123.47 yen from Tuesday's 123.41 yen. The euro rose to $1.0663 from $1.0649.