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* Chinese exports in Nov. drop for fourth straight month
* Qorvo, Skyworks rise on BAML upgrade
* 3M falls, pressures Dow Jones index
* Merck to buy ArQule for $2.7 billion
* Dow off 0.08%, S&P 500 up 0.06%, Nasdaq up 0.23% (Updates to open)
By Shreyashi Sanyal
Dec 9 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq indexes edged higher on Monday, with investors keeping a close watch on headlines around U.S.-China trade as planned tariffs on Chinese imports kick in on Dec. 15.
Beijing and Washington are negotiating a first phase trade deal aimed at de-escalating tariff disputes but they continue to wrangle over key details.
However, analysts and investors are still hoping for a delay in the deadline, while expecting more positive gestures from both sides.
"Markets are telling us that there are hopes for something positive to come up before the deadline. The two sides might just roll back tariffs or even postpone the date but something will happen," Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
The latest data from China showed exports in November shrank for the fourth consecutive month, underscoring persistent pressures on manufacturers from trade tensions.
"Obviously, we can see the Chinese economy is really suffering but this could push them to come up with some sort of a goodwill gesture before the tariffs set in," Cardillo said.
The S&P 500 was up 1.92 points, or 0.06%, at 3,147.83 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 19.65 points, or 0.23%, at 8,676.18.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 21.37 points, or 0.08%, at 27,993.69.
Pressuring the Dow was 3M Co, which fell 1% after Citigroup cut its rating on the industrial conglomerate's shares.
Apple suppliers Qorvo Inc and Skyworks Solutions Inc rose about 3% each, leading gains on the S&P 500, after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded shares of both companies.
Merck & Co dipped 0.5% after it said it would buy cancer drug developer ArQule Inc for $2.7 billion in cash. Shares of ArQule doubled in value following the news.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.15-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 57 new highs and 18 new lows. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)