Plug Power Holders Win, and Lose, from Capital Raise


Plug Power Inc. (PLUG) is doing something that is good for the company, but at the expense of existing shareholders. The controversial alternative energy company filed to raise an undisclosed amount of capital via the sale of common stock, preferred stock, warrants, units and/or debt securities. A subsequent SEC filing shows that the capital raise will come via the sale of 15 million shares of common stock.

At the price listed as of Tuesday’s close, this would have been closer to $ 105 million in proceeds. Plug Power’s market cap was close to $ 950 million at the time. So, why is this good for the company but bad for shareholders?

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Plug Power ended 2013 with only about $ 5 million in cash. A recent short seller attack from Citron Research only highlights how Plug Power needs to bolster its balance sheet. To prove a point: the capital raise filings with the SEC showed that actual product sales of $ 18.44 million in 2013 were lower than the $ 20.79 million in 2012 and lower than the $ 19.59 million in 2011.

Service revenues nearly doubled in 2013, but the company simply has to get more and more product sales before anyone can get excited about service revenues.

Another bit of good news is that the proceeds are going to the company and will be for the company’s use. Plug Power said, “We intend to use the net proceeds from this offering for working capital and other general corporate purposes, including capital expenditures and potential acquisitions.”

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The bad news is that this capital raise comes on the heels of a major run, and it dilutes existing shareholders. After the offering there will be some 121,190,652 shares outstanding, or 123,440,652 shares if the underwriters exercise their option to purchase additional shares in full. There were 106,190,652 shares of common stock outstanding as of December 31, 2013. What investors need to understand here is that the dilution seems small on the surface, and it is almost a certainty that investors will not be fighting over a dividend payment here for quite a long time (if ever!).

Be advised that the total number of shares outstanding excludes almost 7 million shares from various options, as well as 10.9 million shares from a series C preferred stock and another 24.1 million shares issuable from the exercise of warrants. Plug power’s filing further updated its shares outstanding by saying:

The number of shares of our common stock outstanding as of March 31, 2014, was 143,958,761, which excludes 4,785,485 shares of common stock issuable upon the exercise of stock options outstanding as of March 31, 2014, at a weighted average exercise price of $ 3.19 per share; 971,775 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under our equity incentive plans as of March 31, 2014; 165,906 shares of common stock held in treasury; 650,002 shares of common stock issuable upon the vesting of restricted stock units; 11,065,880 shares of common stock issuable upon conversion of our Series C Redeemable Convertible Preferred Stock at an exercise price of 0.234520 per share; and 4,250,490 shares of common stock issuable upon the exercise of warrants outstanding as of March 31, 2014, at a weighted average exercise price of $ 3.82 per share.

One thing that Plug Power did not say is that it effectively will be buying Wall Street research coverage as a side benefit in this offering, and from reputable firms. Morgan Stanley and Barclays are listed as the book-runners, and co-managers are listed as Cowen and FBR. These underwriters also will be granted an overallotment option to purchase up to 2,250,000 additional shares of common stock at the same offering terms.

ALSO READ: 10 Companies Betting on the Next Blockbuster Drugs

Plug Power shares were down 7.6% at $ 6.18 in the late-morning session on Wednesday, and its 52-week trading range is $ 0.15 to $ 11.72.

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Stock Market Update from Briefing.com


4:15 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The major averages finished the Thursday session on an upbeat note with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.7%) in the lead. Small caps underperformed with the Russell 2000 adding 0.1% while the S&P 500 settled higher by 0.6% with nine sectors posting gains.

Stocks began the day on the defensive amid cautious action overseas, but were quick to erase their early losses. The S&P 500 climbed out of the red during the first hour of action with most European indices following suit.

The early advance was powered by the heavily-weighted financial (+1.7%) and technology (+0.7%) sectors, both of which continued their outperformance into the close. Outside of the two, the telecom services sector (+2.5%) was the only other area of relative strength, but it bears noting the group accounts for just 3.0% of the entire S&P 500.

Financials began the trading day ahead of the remaining cyclical groups and never relinquished their standing. Major sector components posted solid gains with JPMorgan Chase (JPM 60.11, +1.81) and Morgan Stanley (MS 32.79, +0.98) ending in the lead. The significant strength of the sector reflected the expected benefit from higher rates and a presumption that stress test results would show that most banks meet the Fed’s capital ratio standards. Accordingly, the results, which were released after the close indicated that 29 of 30 banks passed while Zions Bancorp (ZION 32.99, +1.02) failed.

For its part, the technology sector was powered by chipmakers. Intel (INTC 25.42, +0.41) jumped 1.6% while the broader PHLX Semiconductor Index surged 1.9%. Even though most large components outperformed, that was not the case with the largest sector member-Apple (AAPL 528.70, -2.56)-which lost 0.5%.

The underperformance of Apple weighed on the Nasdaq (+0.3%) as the index could not keep up with the broader market. Biotechnology also pressured the Nasdaq Composite as indicated by a 0.5% decline in the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 258.25, -1.22).

Elsewhere, biotechnology also factored into the underperformance of the health care sector (-0.02%), which spent the day in negative territory. Outside of health care, industrials (+0.2%) and utilities (+0.1%) spent the bulk of the session in the red, but erased their losses ahead of the close.

The industrial sector underperformed amid weakness in transports. The Dow Jones Transportation Average shed 0.1% with FedEx (FDX 136.50, -1.88) trailing the remaining index components. The stock ended lower by 1.4% despite being upgraded to ‘Market Outperform’ at Avondale this morning. Interestingly, the logistics company reported disappointing earnings ahead of Wednesday’s open, but the stock ended yesterday’s session little changed.

Meanwhile, the utilities sector lagged as higher rates weighed. Elevated rates also took a bite out of homebuilders, sending the iShares Dow Jones US Home Construction ETF (ITB 24.57, -0.41) lower by 1.6%.

Treasuries spent the entire session in a narrow range with the benchmark 10-yr yield ending unchanged at 2.77%.

Also of note, President Obama announced additional sanctions on 16 Russian officials as well as individuals with close ties to Vladimir Putin while also targeting Bank Rossiya, which is believed to have close ties to the Kremlin. The president also signed an executive order that permits the use of sanctions against specific sectors of the Russian economy. In a swift response, Russia announced sanctions of their own against ten U.S. officials.

Economic data included weekly initial claims, February existing home sales, February Leading Indicators, and the March Philadelphia Fed Survey:

  • The weekly initial claims level increased to 320,000 from an unrevised 315,000 while the Briefing.com consensus expected the claims level to increase to 330,000. Prior to the last couple weeks, the initial claims level-absent unexpected seasonal biases-was bounded between 330,000 and 340,000. The latest data show a slight downward move from that range, which could be the start of another stage in the improvement in labor market conditions. 
  • Existing home sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 4.60 million in February from an unrevised 4.62 million in January. That was exactly what the Briefing.com consensus expected. For the second consecutive month, the National Association of Realtors blamed extreme winter weather conditions as a primary catalyst for the weakness in sales demand. While sales did drop in winter weather-related areas like the Northeast and Midwest, sales in the South and West still remain well below their December levels. Even if sales recover in the weather-affected areas, overall demand remains below the 5.1 million – 5.3 million that was seen last spring and summer. 
  • The Leading Indicators report for February increased 0.5%. That followed a 0.1% increase in January, and was better than the 0.3% uptick expected by the Briefing.com consensus. 
  • Manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region ended a temporary contraction in March as the Philadelphia Fed’s Business Outlook Survey increased to 9.0 from -6.3 in February. The Briefing.com consensus expected the index to increase to 2.0. 

There is no economic data of note on tomorrow’s schedule but it is worth mentioning that quadruple witching will be taking place.

  • Nasdaq Composite +3.4% YTD 
  • Russell 2000 +3.3% YTD 
  • S&P 500 +1.3% YTD 
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average -1.5% YTD

3:30 pm: [BRIEFING.COM]

  • Precious metals were under pressure today as the dollar index traded higher in response to yesterday’s mentions of sooner-than-expected rate increases from the new FOMC Chair, Janet Yellen. She said interested rates could rise in “probably six months” following completion of the stimulus program.
  • Apr gold fell for a fourth consecutive session, brushing a session low of $ 1320.80 per ounce in early morning pit trade. It eventually settled with a 0.8% loss at $ 1330.20 per ounce.
  • May silver slipped to a session low of $ 20.14 per ounce moments after floor trade opened. It inched slightly higher for the remainder of the session and settled at $ 20.43 per ounce, cutting losses to 1.9%.
  • May crude oil fell for the first time in three sessions as the dollar index traded higher. The energy component dipped to a session low of $ 98.09 per barrel after trading as high as $ 99.45 per barrel in morning action. It settled at $ 98.87 per barrel, or 0.3% lower.
  • Apr natural gas traded lower as inventory data showed a draw of 48 bcf when a draw of 53-59 bcf was anticipated. It pulled back from its session high of $ 4.44 per MMBtu and brushed a session low of $ 4.35 per MMBtu. Unable to gain momentum, it settled with a 2.7% loss at $ 4.37 per MMBtu.

3:00 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 trades higher by 0.6% with one hour remaining in the session.

After today’s closing bell, participants will receive the results of the bank stress test as well as a handful of quarterly reports. Nine companies appear on the earnings calendar with Nike (NKE 78.82, -0.33) headlining the list. The Capital IQ consensus expects the apparel manufacturer to report earnings of $ 0.72 (versus $ 0.73 last year) on $ 6.81 billion in revenue.

Only two companies appear on tomorrow’s schedule with both falling under the consumer discretionary category. Darden Restaurants (DRI 49.46, +0.38) is expected to report earnings of $ 0.82 ($ 1.02 last year) on $ 2.25 billion in revenue while Tiffany & Co (TIF 90.86, -1.93) is expected to announce $ 1.52 in earnings ($ 1.40 last year) on revenue of $ 1.30 billion.

2:30 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 hovers less than a point below its session high as the quiet afternoon continues.

So far this week, every session has produced below-average volume with Tuesday’s affair seeing the second-lowest volume of the year (574 million). Today is not expected to be much different considering just over 350 million shares have changed hands at the NYSE with 90 minutes left in the trading day. Tomorrow’s session, however, will see above-average volume due to quadruple witching, which means index futures, index options, stock options, and stock futures will expire.

Even though the major averages hover near their highs, market breadth is nearly balanced with just 1.03 advancing issues for every decliner at the NYSE.

2:00 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] Equity indices continue drifting near their best levels of the session with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.7%) maintaining its lead. Interestingly, small caps are not sharing the same enthusiasm as the Russell 2000 sports a more modest gain of 0.2%.

Not much change has taken place among individual sectors as financials (+1.8%) continue trading well ahead of the remaining cyclical groups. On the downside, the industrial space hovers right below its flat line amid weakness in transports. The Dow Jones Transportation Average holds a loss of 0.3% with FedEx (FDX 136.54, -1.84) trailing the remaining index components. The stock trades down 1.4% despite being upgraded to ‘Market Outperform’ at Avondale this morning. Interestingly, the logistics company reported disappointing quarterly results yesterday morning, but the stock ended the Wednesday session little changed.

1:25 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The major indices continue to trade near their best levels of the day with buying interest broadening out to include every sector but the health care sector (-0.1%).  It would be remiss not to add that the health care sector has been the best-performing sector year to date (+6.8%).

In any event, the stock market is shaking off some of yesterday’s angst about an interest rate hike from the Fed possibly occurring sooner than expected.

The outperformance of the financial sector (+1.7%) has been an important underpinning factor today.  The extent to which financials continue to outperform could go a long way toward changing the current market narrative from a fear of higher interest rates to higher rates being a reflection of stronger growth ahead.

The relative strength for that heavily-weighted sector has stoked buy-the-dip efforts that have been seen regularly in the wake of stock market weakness.

12:55 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The major averages have spent the first half of today’s session in a steady climb after erasing their slim opening losses during the initial hour of action. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.8%) leads while the S&P 500 trades higher by 0.6% with eight sectors showing gains.

Even though the benchmark index hovers near its best level of the session, sector leadership has been a bit spotty with the two top-weighted groups-financials (+1.6%) and technology (+0.9%)-doing the bulk of the heavy lifting. The third-largest sector-health care (-0.1%)-has yet to join the rally.

The financial sector seized the lead at the open and has not looked back. JPMorgan Chase (JPM 60.28, +1.98) leads all major components with a 3.4% gain while other influential sector members follow not far behind. In all likelihood, the relative strength of the sector reflects the expected benefit from higher rates and a presumption that stress test results, which are expected after the close, will show that most, if not all, banks meet the Fed’s capital ratio standards.

Elsewhere, the technology space has drawn strength from the likes of Intel (INTC 25.56, +0.54), IBM (IBM 187.75, +3.04), and Microsoft (MSFT 40.28, +1.01) while the top component, Apple (AAPL 529.75, -1.51) lags.

The underperformance of Apple has contributed to the relative weakness of the Nasdaq Composite (+0.4%), which also has had to contend with losses in the biotechnology space. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 258.13, -1.34) trades down 0.5%, pressuring the health care sector.

Outside of health care, the rate-sensitive utilities space (-0.1%) is the only other sector trading lower due to higher yields.

Treasuries are little changed with the 10-yr yield at 2.77% after spiking nine basis points yesterday.

Also of note, President Obama announced additional sanctions on 16 Russian officials as well as individuals with close ties to Vladimir Putin while also targeting Bank Rossiya, which is believed to have close ties to the Kremlin. The president also signed an executive order that permits the use of sanctions against specific sectors of the Russian economy. In a swift response, Russia announced sanctions of their own against ten U.S. officials.

Today’s economic data included weekly initial claims, February existing home sales, February Leading Indicators, and the March Philadelphia Fed Survey:

  • The weekly initial claims level increased to 320,000 from an unrevised 315,000 while the Briefing.com consensus expected the claims level to increase to 330,000. Prior to the last couple weeks, the initial claims level-absent unexpected seasonal biases-was bounded between 330,000 and 340,000. The latest data show a slight downward move from that range, which could be the start of another stage in the improvement in labor market conditions. 
  • Existing home sales fell to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 4.60 million in February from an unrevised 4.62 million in January. That was exactly what the Briefing.com consensus expected. For the second consecutive month, the National Association of Realtors blamed extreme winter weather conditions as a primary catalyst for the weakness in sales demand. While sales did drop in winter weather-related areas like the Northeast and Midwest, sales in the South and West still remain well below their December levels. Even if sales recover in the weather-affected areas, overall demand remains below the 5.1 million – 5.3 million that was seen last spring and summer. 
  • The Leading Indicators report for February increased 0.5%. That followed a 0.1% increase in January, and was better than the 0.3% uptick expected by the Briefing.com consensus. 
  • The Philadelphia Fed Survey for March rose to 9.0 from -6.3. Economists polled by Briefing.com had expected that the Survey would improve to 2.0.

12:30 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] Recent action saw the S&P 500 (+0.5%) extend to a fresh session high after the index spent the better part of the past two hours inside of a three-point range.

Financials (+1.4%) and technology (+0.8%) contributed to the push to new highs while the other sectors continued showing reluctance in joining the climb. At this juncture, the energy sector (+0.4%) follows not far behind the broader market while consumer discretionary (+0.3%), industrials (+0.1%), and materials (+0.3%) lag.

Interestingly, the energy sector has been able to make new session highs while crude oil has headed in the opposite direction. The energy component is currently lower by 0.9% at $ 98.32 per barrel.

12:00 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 trades higher by 0.3% with seven of ten sectors showing gains. Two top-weighted groups-financials (+1.0%) and technology (+0.6%)-remain in the lead while the third largest sector-health care (-0.4%)-continues trading below its flat line. Outside of health care, only one other countercyclical group-utilities (-0.6%)-sits in the red as yesterday’s spike in Treasury yields weighs.

The recent weakness among utilities has pushed the sector into the red for the week (-1.6%) while the remaining nine groups continue to hold week-to-date gains between 0.1% (consumer staples) and 3.2% (telecom services). The S&P 500, meanwhile, is higher by 1.4% so far this week.

11:30 am: [BRIEFING.COM] The major averages have continued their retreat from the session highs established during the first hour with the Russell 2000 dipping into the red. Elsewhere, the Dow (+0.3%) continues outperforming while the tech-heavy Nasdaq (+0.1%) trails.

The Nasdaq is being pressured by its top component, Apple (AAPL 528.58, -2.68), which trades down 0.5% while the remainder of the technology sector (+0.5%) is holding up well. Biotechnology, however, remains in a position of relative weakness with the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 257.49, -1.98) hovering near its morning low after making a failed run at its flat line. The biotech ETF trades down 0.8%.

On a separate note, President Obama recently made a brief statement, announcing additional sanctions on certain Russian individuals while also targeting a Russian bank with close ties to the Kremlin.

11:00 am: [BRIEFING.COM] Equity indices hover near their best levels of the session after erasing their opening losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.3%) leads while the S&P 500 (+0.2%) follows not far behind.

Today’s session began with eight sectors trading in the red, but some of the groups have since erased their losses leaving consumer discretionary (-0.1%), energy (-0.1%), health care (-0.2%), and utilities (-0.5%) as the decliners.

On the upside, the financial sector, which displayed strength out of the gate, has extended its advance to 0.9%. All major financials display solid gains with JPMorgan Chase (JPM 59.69, +1.39) leading the pack with its 2.4% gain.

10:35 am: [BRIEFING.COM]

  • Natural gas futures have been in the red all day so far and following the weekly EIA inventory data, losses just extended
  • Following the data, natural gas dropped to a new LoD and are now -2.1% at $ 4.39/MMBtu
  • Gold and silver have been in the red all day so far as well, but have been climbing off current lows
  • Apr gold is now -0.9% at $ 1329.70/oz, while May silver is -1.9% at $ 20.43/oz
  • Crude oil futures fell as low as $ 98.38/barrel, but has since recovered all losses.
  • Apr crude is now -0.1% at $ 99.10

10:05 am: [BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 trades lower by 0.1% while the Nasdaq (-0.2%) and Russell 2000 (-0.4%) underperform.

Biotechnology is contributing to the relative weakness of the Nasdaq as the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 257.84, -1.63) trades down 0.7%.

Just reported, February existing home sales hit an annualized rate of 4.60 million units, which matched the Briefing.com consensus. The pace for February was slightly down from the prior month’s unrevised rate of 4.62 million units.

The Leading Indicators report for February increased 0.5%. That followed a 0.1% increase in January, and was better than the 0.3% uptick expected by the Briefing.com consensus.

Separately, the Philadelphia Fed Survey for March rose to 9.0 from -6.3. Economists polled by Briefing.com had expected that the Survey would improve to 2.0.

9:45 am: [BRIEFING.COM] The three major averages began the session within 0.2% of their flat lines with eight sectors showing early losses.

Energy (-0.5%), health care (-0.2%), and utilities (-0.7%) are among the early laggards of note while financials (+0.2%) and telecom services (+0.7%) started the day in the green.

Notably, the financial sector is likely to be in focus this afternoon when the Federal Reserve releases the bank stress test results.

On the commodity side, crude oil (98.89, -0.28) sports a modest loss of 0.3% while gold and copper futures display larger losses. Gold is lower by 1.2% at $ 1324.90/ozt while copper trades down 1.5% at $ 2.942/lb.

Treasuries remain little changed with the 10-yr yield at 2.78%.

February Existing Home Sales, February Leading Indicators, and the March Philadelphia Fed survey will be released at 10:00 ET.

9:15 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -7.00. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -13.00. The stock market is on track to begin today’s session on a lower note after the S&P 500 lost 0.6% yesterday. The S&P 500 futures trade seven points below fair value after trading little changed at the start of the European session.

Overnight, nearly all global equity markets retreated while the Dollar Index (80.28, +0.29) strengthened in reaction to the latest policy statement from the Federal Reserve, which moved up the expectations in the fed funds futures market for the first rate hike from mid-2015 to April of next year.

Today’s pre-market data has not had much impact on the early trading activity and was limited to the weekly initial claims count, which increased to 320,000 from an unrevised prior rate of 315,000 while the Briefing.com consensus expected an increase to 330,000. The report suggested that labor market trends remain stable at this time.

Some more data remains on the schedule with February Existing Home Sales, February Leading Indicators, and the March Philadelphia Fed survey all set to cross the wires at 10:00 ET.

Treasuries are little changed to start the day with the benchmark 10-yr yield hovering at 2.78%.

8:57 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -6.10. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -10.50. The S&P 500 futures trade six points below fair value.

It was a sea of red across Asia as all of the major bourses ended with losses as sellers took control following the Fed’s taper and change to its forward guidance. Overnight, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda reiterated the central bank will maintain its policy stance until the 2.0% inflation target is reached. Economic data was limited to an in-line New Zealand GDP (0.9% quarter-over-quarter, prior 1.2%) and Hong Kong’s inflation rate (3.9% year-over-year, previous 4.6%).

  • Japan’s Nikkei lost 1.7%, slumping to six-week lows. Shares of Toyota Motor sank 1.5% after the company announced it would pay $ 1.2 billion to settle charges in the U.S. 
  • Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.8% and is now in a correction with shares down ~12% from their December highs. Internet gaming company Tencent Holdings slid 1.7% as profit growth slowed. 
  • China’s Shanghai Composite slumped 1.4% to its lowest level in two months. Automaker BYD tumbled 7.3% after its earnings disappointed. 

In Europe, the major indices trade broadly lower with Great Britain’s FTSE (-1.0%) displaying the largest decline while Italy’s MIB (-0.2%) outperforms. Participants received just a few data points. Germany’s PPI was unchanged month-over-month (expected 0.1%, prior -0.1%) while the year-over-year reading fell 0.9%, as expected (previous -1.1%). Great Britain’s CBI Industrial Trends Orders improved to 6 from 3 (expected 5). The Swiss National Bank held its key interest rate at 0.00%, as expected. Separately, the trade surplus expanded to CHF2.62 billion from CHF2.55 billion (consensus CHF2.24 billion).

Among news of note, German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in front of parliament, saying Ukraine will be the main focus of today’s European leader summit.

  • Great Britain’s FTSE is lower by 1.0% with financials trading in mixed fashion. Admiral Group, Resolution, and Hargreaves Lansdown are down between 2.2% and 4.8%. On the upside, HSBC Holdings and Royal Bank of Scotland display respective gains of 0.1% and 0.5%. 
  • In France, the CAC trades down 0.8% with Credit Agricole leading the slide. The stock trades lower by 2.9%. Energy company Technip and steelmaker ArcelorMittal are among the outperformers. The two names hold respective gains of 1.0% and 0.9%. 
  • Germany’s DAX holds a loss 0.8%. Deutsche Lufthansa and Volkswagen underperform with losses close to 1.0% apiece. Chemical producer Lanxess outperforms with a gain of 4.1% after selling one of its units. 
  • Italy’s MIB is lower by 0.2%. Mediaset trades lower by 1.1 while financials UniCredit, Banca Popolare dell’Emilia Romagna, and Mediobanca lead with gains between 0.2% and 1.4%.

8:32 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -6.40. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -11.50. The S&P 500 futures trade six points below fair value.

The latest weekly initial jobless claims count totaled 320,000, which was lower than the 330,000 that had been expected by the Briefing.com consensus. Today’s tally was above the unrevised prior week count of 315,000. As for continuing claims, they rose to 2.889 million from 2.848 million.

7:58 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -4.90. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -6.30. U.S. equity futures hold modest losses amid cautious action overseas. The S&P 500 futures trade five point below fair value.

Reviewing overnight developments:

  • Asian markets ended lower across the board. China’s Shanghai Composite -1.4%, Japan’s Nikkei -1.7%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng -1.8%. 
    • Economic data was limited: 
      • New Zealand’s GDP rose 0.9% quarter-over-quarter, as expected (prior 1.2%) 
      • Japan’s Foreign Bonds Buying report pointed to net purchases in the amount of JPY143.10 billion (prior sales of JPY617.90 billion). 
      • Hong Kong’s CPI rose 3.9% year-over-year (last 4.6%). 
    • In news: 
      • China’s State Council announced plans to speed up construction projects in order to stabilize economic growth in the immediate term. Also of note, the yuan continued weakening against the dollar with the dollar/yuan exchange rate climbing above 6.2275. 
  • Major European indices trade broadly lower. France’s CAC -0.8%, Germany’s DAX -0.8%, and Great Britain’s FTSE -1.0%. Elsewhere, Italy’s MIB -0.4% and Spain’s IBEX -0.5%. 
    • Participants received just a few data points: 
      • Germany’s PPI was unchanged month-over-month (expected 0.1%, prior -0.1%) while the year-over-year reading fell 0.9%, as expected (previous -1.1%). 
      • Great Britain’s CBI Industrial Trends Orders improved to 6 from 3 (expected 5). 
      • The Swiss National Bank held its key interest rate at 0.00%, as expected. Separately, the trade surplus expanded to CHF2.62 billion from CHF2.55 billion (consensus CHF2.24 billion). 
    • Among news of note: 
      • German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in front of parliament, saying Ukraine will be the main focus of today’s European leader summit. 

In U.S. corporate news:

  • ConAgra Foods (CAG 30.00, +0.41): +1.4% after beating the Capital IQ consensus earnings estimate by two cents on in-line revenue. In addition, the company reaffirmed its longer-term targets. 
  • Jabil Circuit (JBL 18.44, +0.18): +1.0% despite missing on earnings and issuing mixed guidance. The company said it expects below-consensus third quarter earnings while the midpoint for fiscal-year 2015 earnings was set above estimates. 
  • Lennar (LEN 42.20, +0.86): +2.1% after beating revenue estimates. 

Weekly initial claims will be released at 8:30 ET while February Existing Home Sales, February Leading Indicators, and the March Philadelphia Fed survey will cross the wires at 10:00 ET.

6:33 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -6.00. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -9.50.

6:33 am: [BRIEFING.COM] Nikkei…14224.23…-238.30-1.70%.  Hang Seng…21182.16…-365.50-1.80%.

6:33 am: [BRIEFING.COM] FTSE…6512.02…-61.10-0.90%.  DAX…9204.10…-73.00-0.80%.

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InPlay from Briefing.com


1:51 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • Spreadtrum Communications (SPRD) announced that it has entered the tablet market with the introduction of a quad-core chipset for tablets with integrated connectivity, supporting WCDMA/HSPA+, Android 4.4 and a turnkey reference design to help manufacturers reduce the time and resources required to bring new tablets to market. 
  • Toll Brothers (TOL), in a joint venture with GTIS Partners, announced the acquisition of Sienna South, the last major undeveloped parcel of Sienna Plantation, one of Houston’s most successful master planned communities. When fully built out, it is anticipated that Sienna South will have generated gross home sales of over $ 2.6 bln. 
  • PTC Therapeutics (PTCT), the SMA Foundation, and Roche (RHHBY), announced that their joint research program in Spinal Muscular Atrophy has entered the first stage of clinical development aiming to assess safety and tolerability of an oral compound in healthy volunteers. SMA is a genetic neuromuscular disorder that leads to muscle weakness and mobility impairment and is considered the leading genetic cause of death in infants and toddlers.

1:45 am ADTRAN beats by $ 0.09, reports revs in-line (ADTN) : Reports Q4 (Dec) earnings of $ 0.25 per share, $ 0.09 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.16; revenues rose 13.8% year/year to $ 159.1 mln vs the $ 158.88 mln consensus.

Growth was driven by core product areas, Broadband Access, Internetworking and Optical, which were up 25%. Strong performances in EMEA and Latin America helped drive international revenue up 78%. 

1:25 am North Valley Bancorp and TriCo Bancshares (TCBK) announce agreement to merge (NOVB) : TriCo Bancshares (TCBK) and North Valley Bancorp (NOVB) jointly announced that the companies have agreed to combine their two leading northern California bank franchises in a transaction valued at ~$ 178.4 million.

Based on financial information as of September 30, 2013, the combined company will have ~$ 3.5 bln in assets, $ 3.1 bln in deposits, $ 2.2 bln in gross loans and ~80 branches throughout California — stretching from Bakersfield in the south to Crescent City in the north. 

Under the terms of the merger agreement:

  • North Valley stockholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 0.9433 shares of TriCo common stock in exchange for each share of North Valley common stock. 
  • In total, North Valley  shareholders will own ~28.6% of the common stock of the combined company. 
  • Based on TriCo’s closing stock price of $ 27.66 on January 17, the merger consideration is valued at ~$ 26.09 per North Valley share. 
  • The value of the merger consideration will change based on fluctuations in TriCo’s stock price. 
  • North Valley option holders will receive cash, net of applicable taxes withheld, for the value of their unexercised stock options as determined prior to closing.

1:15 am American States Water comments on drought declaration (AWR) : Co announces “…that despite California’s statewide drought conditions and Governor Brown’s recent drought declaration, water supplies for each of the 38 water systems at its utility subsidiary Golden State Water Company are sufficient to continue providing its customers with reliable and quality water services. At this time, no water rationing is expected for GSWC’s water customers. However, as we have done in the past, GSWC will maintain active communication with its customers in the event it is required to implement water rationing and restrictions. The dry weather and drought conditions are important reminders for us all to use water wisely…”

1:10 am BRE Properties announces redemption of 6.75% Series D Cumulative Redemable Preferred Stock (BRE) : Co announces that it has issued a Notice of Redemption to all holders of record of its outstanding 6.75% Series D Cumulative Redeemable Preferred Stock at a redemption price of $ 25.23438 per share. The redemption price is equal to the original issue price of $ 25.00 per share, plus accrued and unpaid dividends through the redemption date, which is February 20, 2014.

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6:18 pm Interdigital Comm comments USITC final determination in Nokia, Huawei, ZTE investigation: “Today’s determination is extremely disappointing” (IDCC) : Co commented on the final determination by the United States International Trade Commission (“ITC”) in its investigation 337-TA-800 involving Nokia, Huawei and ZTE.

  • “Today’s determination by the ITC is extremely disappointing. We believe the Commission’s claim constructions are plainly wrong, and we look forward to appealing the determination as we have a strong track record of success before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. We also look forward to a positive conclusion to the ongoing ITC investigation of Huawei, ZTE, Nokia and Samsung, which is slated for completion in 2014 and is based on some of the same patents that have already been favorably construed at the Federal Circuit,” said William J. Merritt, President and Chief Executive Officer. 
  • “Ultimately, our contributions to the core technologies that underpin wireless devices and networks worldwide are universally recognized, by third party analysts as well as by our peers in the standards development process. We remain very confident that those contributions, as well as those of all companies involved in the standards process, will be fairly compensated,” continued Mr. Merritt.
  • InterDigital will host a conference call on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time to discuss the decision and other company business.

6:17 pm Rowan Cos provides fleet contract status update (RDC) : Co announced today that its monthly report of drilling rig status and contract information has been updated as of December 19, 2013. The report titled “Monthly Fleet Status Report” can be found on the Company’s website at www.rowancompanies.com. Notable events in the current report include:

  • EXL II: Awarded a three-year commitment with undisclosed customer in Trinidad commencing in March 2014 at $ 179,500 per day, above its previous day rate at $ 137,000. 
  • Rowan Renaissance: Rig is expected to commence a three-year term offshore West Africa with the current customer mid April 2014 instead of late March 2014 as previously indicated due to certain equipment delivery delays. 
  • Gorilla VII: Increased 4Q 2013 off rate time by 35 days to 92 days.The rig had been undergoing leg repairs which were substantially completed several weeks ago. Unfortunately, inclement weather in the North Sea since then has delayed the rig being able to go on location. Current expectations are that the rig will return to service at the beginning of January 2014. Operating costs will be expensed during this period. Incremental third party repair costs will also be expensed and are expected to total approximately $ 2.5 million in 4Q 2013, no change from prior guidance.

6:07 pm The Jones Group to be acquired by Sycamore Partners for $ 15 per share in cash (JNY) : Co and Sycamore Partners today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which affiliates of Sycamore Partners will acquire The Jones Group for $ 15.00 per share in cash, or a total of approximately $ 1.2 billion. The transaction is valued at approximately $ 2.2 billion, including net debt. Upon completion of the transaction, The Jones Group will become a privately held company.

  • Under the terms of the agreement, The Jones Group’s shareholders will receive $ 15.00 in cash for each share of The Jones Group’s common stock. This represents a premium of approximately 19% to The Jones Group’s 30-day volume weighted average stock price for the period ended April 11, 2013, the last trading day prior to when media speculation began regarding the Company’s plans to sell all or parts of its portfolio. The agreement was unanimously approved by The Jones Group’s Board of Directors.

6:02 pm Axiall selects Louisiana as site of contemplated ethylene cracker (AXLL) : Co announced that it has selected the state of Louisiana as the location of a possible world-scale ethylene cracker to be built in conjunction with a related derivatives plant. Axiall proposes to construct the facility with a soon-to-be-named partner, and Axiall’s contemplated capital investment in the project would be approximately $ 1 billion. Axiall expects to finance its portion of the investment with a combination of new debt and cash on hand. The combination of Axiall’s approximately $ 1 billion investment with approximately $ 2 billion from a partner could result in a total capital investment approaching $ 3 billion.

6:01 pm Oclaro announces exchange of all convertible debt (OCLR) : Co announced that holders of all $ 25 million in aggregate principal amount of the 7.5% Exchangeable Senior Secured Second Lien Notes due 2018 have exercised their right to exchange their Notes for shares of the Company’s common stock. The exchange rate for the exchanges was 541.7118 shares of Common Stock per $ 1,000 in principal amount of Notes, equivalent to an exchange price of approximately $ 1.846 per share. Accordingly, the Company will issue 13,542,791 shares of Common Stock in connection with the Exchanges, with cash payable in lieu of fractional shares. In addition, pursuant to the terms of the indenture governing the Notes, the exchanging holders were entitled to interest make-whole premium in connection with the Exchanges, which totalled approximately $ 8.3 million in the aggregate. As of December 24, 2013, no Notes will remain outstanding.

6:01 pm Navidea Biopharma: EMA continues Marketing Authorization Application review for Lymphoseek (NAVB) : Co announced that the European Medicines Agency (:EMA) has provided updated Day 180 feedback and has elected to continue the assessment of the Marketing Authorization Application (MAA) for Lymphoseek (technetium 99m tilmanocept) Injection. The updated Day 180 feedback was limited to supplemental product specification data and the NEO3-06 Phase 3 study in Head and Neck Cancer, which was submitted later in the MAA review process at Day 120, leaving less time for evaluation of these new data. The MAA review clock will continue to be stopped at Day 180 to await Navidea’s responses to the updated EMA feedback. During this time, the MAA remains active and Navidea will continue its ongoing process of interacting with the EMA.

6:00 pm PG&E files gas transmission and storage rate case (PCG) : Co provided state regulators with its comprehensive proposal for 2015-17 to continue maintaining and modernizing its approximately 6,750 miles of gas transmission pipelines and extensive storage facilities, which serve more than 4.4 million customers over an area of 70,000 square miles. The plan expands on the utility’s current program to comprehensively test, inspect, and upgrade the safety of its gas infrastructure. It will help meet some of the toughest new state safety standards in the country, now required of all California gas pipeline operators.

5:45 pm Avianca Holdings reports traffic statistics for its airlines: YTD passengers increased 6.8% year over year (AVH) : Between January and November, Avianca Holdings (AVH) affiliated airlines carried 22,465,841 passengers, an 6.8% increase over the same period in 2012. Capacity, measured in ASKs (available seat kilometers), increased 6.4% while passenger traffic, measured in RPKs (passenger revenue per kilometer flown), increased 7.5%, as a result the load factor for the month increased to 80.4%. In November, the subsidiary companies of Avianca Holdings transported 2,089,619 passengers, up 5.6% compared to November 2012. Capacity, measured in ASKs (available seat kilometers), increased 6.6% while passenger traffic, measured in RPKs (passenger revenue per kilometer flown), increased 6.6%. The load factor for the month was 80.5%.

5:21 pm AK Steel announces retirement of John F. Kaloski, Executive Vice President and Operating Officer (AKS) : Co said today that John F. Kaloski, Executive Vice President and Operating Officer of AK Steel, has elected to retire from the company, effective January 31, 2014. Following his retirement, Mr. Kaloski’s responsibilities will be assumed as follows: Kirk W. Reich, Vice President, Procurement and Supply Chain Management, Keith J. Howell, Vice President, Operations, and Maurice A. (“Mo”) Reed, Vice President, Engineering, Raw Materials and Energy.

5:12 pm ZAIS Financial declares $ 0.40 quarterly dividend (prior quarter was $ 0.50), announces $ 0.55 per share special cash dividend (ZFC) : Co announced that its Board of Directors declared a regular cash dividend of $ 0.40 per share of the Company’s common stock and operating partnership unit (“OP unit”) for the fourth quarter ending December 31, 2013, and an additional special cash dividend of $ 0.55 per share of its common stock and OP unit. The Company is declaring the additional special cash dividend to distribute taxable income from 2013 attributable to the termination of interest rate swap contracts. The dividends are payable on January 15, 2014, to stockholders and OP unit holders of record as of the close of business on December 31, 2013.

5:04 pm Peabody Energy sees FY13 adjusted EBITDA of $ 60-80 mln (BTU) : Co announced that full year 2013 Adjusted EBITDA is expected to be approximately $ 60 million to $ 80 million lower than original targets due to delays in final commissioning of the new longwall top coal caving system at the North Goonyella Mine, along with the impact of the now-resolved labor action at the Metropolitan Mine.

While both issues were contemplated when targets were established in October, North Goonyella experienced a number of startup challenges related to hydraulic, mechanical and electrical equipment, which have extended the commissioning well beyond the original period that was anticipated. All system equipment manufacturers are onsite as the mine teams work through final commissioning phases. At Metropolitan Mine, work stoppages extended into November until a new labor agreement was signed, and the mine has now fully resumed operations.

5:03 pm Pfizer: FDA accepts for review ELIQUIS (apixaban) sNDA for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism; PDUFA date of August 25, 2014 (PFE) : Co and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) announced that the FDA has accepted for review a Supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) for ELIQUIS (apixaban) for the treatment of deep vein thrombosis (:DVT) and pulmonary embolism (:PE), and for the reduction in the risk of recurrent DVT and PE. The Prescription Drug User Fee Act (:PDUFA) goal date for a decision by the FDA is August 25, 2014. In 2007, Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb entered into a worldwide collaboration to develop and commercialize ELIQUIS, an oral anticoagulant discovered by Bristol-Myers Squibb.

5:00 pm Texas Instruments acquires UTAC facility in Chengdu, China (TXN) : Co announced it has acquired a building in the Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone from UTAC Chengdu Ltd. Earlier this year, TI announced its investments in these operations could total up to $ 1.69 billion over the next 15 years, further demonstrating its long-term investment strategy in this important region. The new 358,000 square-foot facility will become TI’s seventh assembly/test (A/T) operation. Located on the same property as TI’s existing wafer fab in Chengdu, the site will become the company’s only end-to-end wafer fabrication and A/T facility.

4:58 pm Andersons announces three-for-two stock split; declares slightly increased quarterly dividend of $ 0.165 per share (ANDE) : Co announces today its Board of Directors has approved a three-for-two split of The Andersons stock. Shareholders will receive one additional share for every two shares they own on the record date of January 21, 2014, in the form of a dividend to be distributed as of the close of business of February 18, 2014. In addition, the board approved a first quarter 2014 cash dividend of $ 0.165 per share (vs $ 0.16 in previous quarter), payable January 23, 2014, to shareholders of record on January 2, 2014.

4:45 pm Gentium to be acquired by Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) for $ 57 per share (stock halted) (GENT) : Co Jazz Pharmaceuticals (JAZZ) and Gentium (GENT) announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which a subsidiary of Jazz Pharmaceuticals will make a cash tender offer of $ 57.00 per share for all outstanding Gentium ordinary shares and American Depositary Shares, in a transaction that is valued at approximately $ 1 billion.

  • “The planned combination of Jazz Pharmaceuticals and Gentium is highly synergistic, as we both are dedicated to bringing highly differentiated therapies to patients who have high unmet medical needs,” said Dr. Khalid Islam, chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer of Gentium.
  • Jazz Pharmaceuticals expects to finance the transaction with a combination of cash on hand, the proceeds from an incremental term loan and revolver borrowings under its existing senior secured credit facility. Barclays has provided a binding commitment letter for a $ 500 million incremental term loan, subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions.

4:39 pm Apricus Biosciences announces national phase approval for erectile dysfunction cream – Vitaros in France (APRI) : Co announced that France’s National Agency for Medicines and Health Products Safety (:ANSM) has granted national phase approval to Vitaros, indicated for the treatment of patients with erectile dysfunction (“ED”). The Company has now received a total of seven national phase approvals for Vitaros, including France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom following its broad approval by European health authorities in June 2013.

4:36 pm Chimera Investment announces special dividend of $ 0.20 per share (CIM) : Co declared a special common stock cash dividend of $ 0.20 per common share. This special dividend is payable January 31, 2014, to common shareholders of record on January 8, 2014. The ex-dividend date is January 6, 2014. The Company continues to work to complete the ongoing work towards becoming current on all of its filings required under applicable securities laws. The Company will file its Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2012, and all other required filings as soon as practicable.

4:36 pm KBR ammonia technology selected for new fertilizer facility in Indiana (KBR) : Co announced that its leading ammonia process technology has been selected by Midwest Fertilizer Corporation for its new fertilizer manufacturing plant in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. The 2,200 metric ton per day ammonia capacity plant will utilize KBR’s proprietary PurifierTM technology that delivers the lowest proven energy consumption in the industry, reduces capital costs and improves overall plant operations. The undisclosed contract value for KBR will be booked into backlog during the fourth quarter of 2013.

4:35 pm PG&E issues statement regarding gas transmission line 147: ‘pipeline can be safely operated at a pressure up to 330 pounds per square inch’ (PCG) : “We welcome the Commission affirmation today that this pipeline can be safely operated at a pressure up to 330 pounds per square inch. The safety of Line 147 has been extensively assessed and confirmed not only by PG&E but also by the country’s leading pipeline safety consultant and by the Safety and Enforcement Division of the CPUC. This line plays a critical role in delivering natural gas safely and reliably to PG&E customers in the Peninsula. During this time of year when temperatures are at some of the coldest levels, returning this line to full and safe service will help ensure that all PG&E customers continue to receive the natural gas they need to stay warm. In addition, returning the line to service gives us the capacity we need to move forward with safety-related work on other lines.”

In a separate decision, the Commission fined PG&E $ 14,350,000 for delays in formally reporting the details of discrepancies found between certain pipe on Line 147 and PG&E’s records for that pipe.

4:34 pm Charter Finl announces ~571.6k share stock repurchase program (CHFN) : Co announced that its Board of Directors has adopted a stock repurchase program. Under the repurchase program, the Company may repurchase up to 571,577 shares of its common
stock, or approximately 2.5% of the current outstanding shares.

4:33 pm Keating Capital declares $ 0.0109 per share special dividend (KIPO) : Closed-end fund that has elected to be regulated as a business development company under the Investment Company Act of 1940, declared a special dividend of $ 0.0109 per share. As of December 30, 2013, the record date of the dividend, the Company will have 9,548,902 shares of common stock outstanding, including shares issued in the Company’s recently completed rights offering. The $ 0.0109 per share dividend represents a distribution of $ 104,072 in previously undistributed net gains realized in 2013. T

4:32 pm KEYW Holding receives $ 115 mln contract for airborne collection services (KEYW) : Co announce that it has received a contract for continued overseas airborne collection services. The total value of the contract is $ 115 million and includes a base period of performance with three option periods through September 2016. Of this, $ 54 million is funded for collection services through March 2015.

4:32 pm Hudson Valley named Michael E. Finn to serve as Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer of the $ 3.0 billion-asset commercial bank. (HVB) : He most recently served as a Senior Advisor to the Deputy Comptroller in the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Northeastern District in New York.

4:31 pm Plains All Amer announces project to construct Eagle Ford Fractionator and related infrastructure expansions (PAA) : Co announced that it is constructing a new natural gas liquids (NGL) fractionator and is expanding its existing condensate stabilization facility in the Eagle Ford area of South Texas. The new fractionator is supported by long-term third-party commitments and will have a capacity of up to 15,000 barrels per day of NGL Y-Grade and off-spec Y-Grade product. The new fractionator, condensate stabilization expansion and related infrastructure enhancements are expected to require a total investment of approximately $ 120 million and are expected to be in service in the second quarter of 2015.

4:31 pm United Insurance subsidiary approved to write property and casualty insurance in Georgia (UIHC) : Co announced that the Georgia Department of Insurance approved United Property & Casualty Insurance Company (:UPC), one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries, to write property and casualty insurance in the state as an admitted carrier. This brings the total number of states in the U.S. where UPC is authorized to nine, along with Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Texas. United Property & Casualty Insurance Company expects to continue its expansion program and is in varying stages of discussion with other state insurance regulatory authorities regarding its desire to write property insurance in other states.

4:31 pm Transdigm Group completes acquisition of Airborne Systems for approx $ 250 mln in cash (TDG) :  

4:27 pm Metabolix appoints Joseph Shaulson to lead company as new CEO (MBLX) : Co announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Joseph Shaulson as its new president and chief executive officer (CEO) effective January 2, 2014 and as a member of the Board of Directors, effective immediately. Shaulson, previously Executive Vice President of Arch Chemicals, will succeed Richard Eno, who will remain with the Company until January 31, 2014 to assist with the transition.

4:25 pm Cintas beats by $ 0.02, beats on revs; raised the bottom end of prior FY14 EPS guidance, in-line, narrows revs in-line (CTAS) : Reports Q2 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.70 per share, $ 0.02 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.68; revenues rose 7.5% year/year to $ 1.14 bln vs the $ 1.13 bln consensus.

  • Co raised the bottom end of prior guidance range of FY14 $ 2.73-2.79 vs $ 2.76 Capital IQ Consensus Estimatem, from $ 2.70-2.79; narrows revs guidance to $ 4.53-4.58 mln vs $ 4.57 bln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate, from $ 4.5-4.6 bln

4:23 pm DealerTrack announces agreement to acquire Dealer.com for 8.7 mln shares of common stock and $ 620 mln in cash (TRAK) : Co and Dealer.com announced a definitive agreement for Dealertrack to acquire Dealer.com, a leading provider of marketing and operations software and services for the automotive industry. Through the combination, the companies expect to realize their shared vision to transform automotive retail by delivering the most advanced solutions for dealers, OEMs, lenders and car shoppers.

  • Under the terms of the agreement, Dealertrack will acquire all the equity of Dealer.com for approximately 8.7 million shares of Dealertrack’s common stock and $ 620 million in cash, subject to customary post-closing adjustments. Dealertrack expects to finance the cash portion of the purchase price through cash on hand and with fully committed debt financing. 
  • The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, subject to regulatory approval, and the transaction is expected to be accretive to Dealertrack’s standalone multi-year organic growth profile to Dealertrack’s diluted adjusted net income per share.

4:21 pm Exelixis: COMETRIQ (cabozantinib) receives positive opinion from CHMP for progressive, unresectable locally advanced or metastatic medullary thyroid carcinoma (EXEL) : Co announced that the European Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) has issued a positive opinion of the Marketing Authorization Application (MAA) for COMETRIQ (cabozantinib) for the treatment of adult patients with progressive, unresectable locally advanced or metastatic medullary thyroid carcinoma (:MTC). The proposed indication also states that for patients in whom Rearranged during Transfection (:RET) mutation status is not known or is negative, a possible lower benefit should be taken into account before individual treatment decisions. The CHMP’s positive opinion will now be reviewed by the European Commission, which has the authority to approve medicines for the European Union.

4:21 pm Nike beats by $ 0.01, reports revs in-line (NKE) : Reports Q2 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.59 per share, $ 0.01 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.58; revenues rose 8.0% year/year to $ 6.43 bln vs the $ 6.44 bln consensus. 

  • Futures orders at end of Q2 (ex-FX) +13% vs street expectations of ~10% and +7% last year. 
  • Revenues for the NIKE Brand were $ 6.1 billion, up 9% on a currency neutral basis, with growth in every product type, geography and key category. 
    • Revenues for Converse were $ 360 million, up 11% on a currency neutral basis, driven by strong performance in our largest owned markets: North America, the United Kingdom, and China. 
  • Inventories for NIKE, Inc. were $ 3.7 billion, up 11% from November 30, 2012. NIKE Brand wholesale unit inventories increased 7% to support future demand. Changes in foreign currency exchange rates and product cost drove an ~4 % point net increase in NIKE, Inc. inventory growth. 
  • Gross margin increased 140 basis points to 43.9%. Gross margin benefitted from a shift in the mix of the Company’s revenues to higher margin products and businesses, higher average prices, easing raw materials product input costs and continued strength in the higher margin Direct-to-Consumer business. These benefits were partially offset by unfavorable changes in foreign exchange rates and higher labor product input costs. 
  • During Q2, co repurchased a total of 5.5 million shares for ~$ 402 million as part of the four-year, $ 8 billion program approved by the Board of Directors in September 2012.

4:20 pm Caesars Entertainment announces partnership with Live Nation Entertainment (LYV); Reveals New Name and Major Transformation for Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Theater (CZR) : Caesars officials announced today their strategic partnership with Live Nation Entertainment (LYV), for the newly-renovated theater which will feature amenities and a new name — The AXIS at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

4:17 pm Teekay Offshore announces $ 53.4 mln equity private placement (TOO) : Teekay Offshore GP LLC., the general partner of Teekay Offshore Partners L.P. (TOO), announced that it has agreed to issue 1.75 million common units in a private placement to an institutional investor for proceeds of approximately $ 53.4 million (excluding the Partnership’s general partner’s proportionate capital contribution). The Partnership intends to use the proceeds from the sale of common units for general partnership purposes, which may include funding vessel conversion projects and future vessel acquisitions.

4:16 pm Global Ship Lease announces withdrawal of proposed notes offering (GSL) : Co announced today that due to market conditions, it has chosen not to proceed with its previously announced secured notes offering at this time.

4:16 pm Covance authorizes $ 100 mln stock buyback (CVD) :  

4:15 pm The First Bancorp increases quarterly dividend 2.6% to $ 0.20 from $ 0.195 per share (FNLC) :  

4:13 pm Lender Processing stockholders approve acquisition by Fidelity National Financial (FNF) (LPS) :  

4:09 pm AAR Corp beats by $ 0.02, beats on revs; lowers FY14 guidance (AIR) : Reports Q2 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.50 per share, $ 0.02 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.48; revenues rose 5.4% year/year to $ 540.7 mln vs the $ 516.19 mln consensus. Co issues mixed guidance for FY14, sees EPS of $ 1.95-2.00 (Prior $ 2.00-2.05), excluding non-recurring items, vs. $ 2.00 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate; sees FY14 revs of $ 2.100-2.2150 bln (Prior $ 2.175-2.225 bln) vs. $ 2.12 bln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate.

4:08 pm Red Hat beats by $ 0.07, beats on revs (RHT) : Reports Q3 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.42 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $ 0.07 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.35; revenues rose 15.4% year/year to $ 396.5 mln vs the $ 383.06 mln consensus. 

Subscription revenue for the quarter was $ 343 million, up 17% in U.S. dollars year-over-year, or 18% measured in constant currency. At quarter end, the co’s total deferred revenue balance was $ 1.12 billion, an increase of 14% on a year-over-year basis. Total cash, cash equivalents and investments as of November 30, 2013 was $ 1.33 billion after repurchasing ~$ 40 million of common stock, or ~920 thousand shares, in the third quarter. Red Hat has repurchased ~$ 239 million of common stock, or approximately 5.0 million shares, during the first nine months of fiscal 2014.

“We experienced an acceleration in our billings proxy growth in Q3, both year-over-year and sequentially, due in part to the strengthening of our European and U.S. federal government businesses. The billings proxy, which we define as total revenue plus the change in deferred revenue found on the Statement of Cash Flows, was $ 453 million, up 19% in U.S. dollars and 21% in constant currency compared to last year.”

4:08 pm ONEOK announces Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a settlement agreement with the co (OKE) :

  • Co announced that the Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a settlement agreement that allows ONEOK to separate its natural gas distribution business into a stand-alone publicly traded company, ONE Gas, Inc., and authorizes the transfer of ONEOK’s existing Kansas natural gas distribution assets, certificates of convenience and necessity, franchises and tariffs to ONE Gas. 
  • The transaction is expected to close in late January 2014 or early February 2014. 
  • ONE Gas is expected to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange (:OGS).

4:07 pm TIBCO Software beats by $ 0.03, reports revs in-line (TIBX) : Reports Q4 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.42 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $ 0.03 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.39; revenues rose 6.4% year/year to $ 315.5 mln vs the $ 312.47 mln consensus.

  • “We saw strong, accelerating growth in the Americas and a return to growth in Asia this quarter, while closing a record 31 deals over $ 1 million in license revenue worldwide,” said Vivek Ranadiv , TIBCO Chairman and CEO. “We are building momentum as we enter 2014, and I am very optimistic about our prospects in the year ahead.”

4:06 pm Horizon Pharma reports inducement grants; Board approved grant of inducement stock options to purchase an aggregate of 88.8k shares of common stock to 22 new employees (HZNP) :  

4:06 pm AtriCure to acquire Estech for a cash-free, debt-free up-front payment of ~ 2.1 mln shares or $ 34 mln of AtriCure common stock and up to $ 26 mln in additional consideration based on the achievement of certain revenue-based milestones (ATRC) :

  • Co announced that they have entered into a definitive merger agreement under which AtriCure has agreed to acquire Estech for a cash-free, debt-free up-front payment of approximately 2.1 mln shares or $ 34 mln of AtriCure common stock and up to $ 26 mln in additional consideration based on the achievement of certain revenue-based milestones. 
  • The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the next several weeks. AtriCure shareholder approval is not required.
  • AtriCure expects that the transaction will increase sales and marketing expense as well as research and development expenditures in order to accelerate clinical development and commercial sales of the combined product portfolio. While these expenses will increase on absolute dollar basis, AtriCure expects these expenses to decrease as a percentage of sales beginning in 2015. AtriCure expects the transaction to be dilutive to earnings in 2014 and accretive in 2015 and beyond. 

4:05 pm Nutrisystem reaffirms its national strategic partnership with the American Diabetes Association (NTRI) : Co announced that the American Diabetes Association has reaffirmed its national strategic partnership with the Company for the next three years in recognition of Nutrisystem’s continued commitment to support the Association’s mission and the movement to Stop Diabetes. It was also announced that Nutrisystem President and CEO Dawn Zier will co-chair the 2014 Philadelphia Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes planned for Fall 2014.

4:04 pm YRC Worldwide: Avenue Capital discloses 13.71% active stake in 13D filing; have had and continue to have discussions with Co (YRCW) :

  • Representatives of the Reporting Persons have had and continue to have discussions with the representatives of the Issuer with respect to the Reporting Persons’ investment in the Issuer, the Issuer’s current financial condition, liquidity position and potential financing transactions. 
  • In connection with their investment, the Reporting Persons expect to have additional discussions or meetings from time to time with representatives and advisors of the Issuer, including with respect to the current and future financial position and liquidity of the Issuer and potential financing transactions. The discussions, ideas and proposals referred to above may involve one or more of the events or matters specified in (a) through (j) of Item 4 of Schedule 13D. There is no assurance that the Reporting Persons will or will not take any of the actions set forth above and, if undertaken, the Reporting Persons may modify or terminate any activities at any time.

4:03 pm Monroe Capital expands its bank credit facility to $ 110 mln and lowers pricing (MRCC) :

  • Co announced the successful amendment of its bank revolving credit facility led by ING Capital. The amended facility includes an increase in the size of the current revolver commitments to $ 110 mln from $ 95 mln, and an expansion of the accordion feature to $ 200 mln from $ 100 mln, to facilitate future expansion in order to accommodate growth for the BDC. 
  • The amended facility reduces pricing by 50 basis points, to LIBOR plus 3.25% per annum, with a further step-down to LIBOR plus 3.00% when equity capitalization exceeds $ 175 mln. The amended facility has a four-year maturity, extending the maturity date from October 21, 2016 to December 19, 2017. The amended facility also includes more flexible terms regarding eligible collateral.

4:03 pm American Residential Properties expands credit facility by $ 40 mln (ARPI) : Co announced that JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. has joined the existing bank group as a lender under the Company’s senior secured revolving credit facility. As a result of JPMorgan Chase’s entry into the credit facility, the Company exercised $ 40 mln of the credit agreement accordion feature, increasing the maximum borrowing amount from $ 340 million to $ 380 million, subject to meeting certain criteria. All other terms of the Credit Agreement remain unchanged. The credit facility currently permits further increases of the maximum borrowing amount up to $ 500 million, subject to meeting certain criteria and obtaining additional commitments from lenders.

4:02 pm American Public Education names Richard W. Sunderland, Jr. to serve as CFO (APEI) :

  • Co announced that its board of directors has approved a plan for Harry T. Wilkins to lead the Company’s newest subsidiary and strategic development efforts, and for Richard W. Sunderland, Jr. to succeed Mr. Wilkins as APEI’s CFO. 
  • Effective January 1, 2014, Harry T. Wilkins, the Company’s current executive vice president and chief financial officer, will become CEO of National Education Seminars. In addition, Mr. Wilkins will serve as APEI’s executive vice president and chief development officer. Mr. Sunderland, currently the APUS senior vice president of finance, has been appointed to succeed Mr. Wilkins as executive vice president and chief financial officer of APEI and APUS.

4:02 pm CommonWealth REIT Amends Management Agreement with RMR; Implements Changes Announced Earlier this Year to Further Align Interests of Management with Shareholders While Maintaining Low Cost Structure (CWH) :

  • Co announced that it has amended its business management agreement with Reit Management & Research LLC, or RMR, effective January 1, 2014. 
  • The new calculation of the base management fee will be based on approximately 0.5% multiplied by the lower of: (i) the historical cost of CWH’s real estate assets or (ii) CWH’s total market capitalization. The comparatively low level of general and administrative, or G&A, expenses that CWH has historically enjoyed will continue, but with this change it is possible that G&A expenses may further decline if the market value of CWH’s common shares declines. 10% of the base fee will be paid in CWH’s common shares. As a result, management’s share ownership is expected to increase over time. 
  • The new incentive fee will be calculated based on total return per share (dividends and share price changes) realized by CWH’s shareholders in comparison to the total return of the SNL U.S. REIT Office Index, or the Benchmark.

4:01 pm CalAmp announced that it has begun supplying its advanced LMU-3000 family of wireless tracking/communications devices to Himex (CAMP) : Co announced that it has begun supplying its advanced LMU-3000 family of wireless tracking/communications devices to HIMEX for use in that company’s usage-based insurance applications. Three of the largest auto insurance companies in the United States have selected and begun deploying the HIMEX UBI platform utilizing CalAmp devices.

4:00 pm USA Mobility extends extends stock repurchase program through 2014; sets repurchase authority to $ 15 mln (USMO) : Co announced its Board of Directors has approved extension of the Company’s stock repurchase program from December 31, 2013 to December 31, 2014. In extending the plan, the Board also reset the repurchase authority to $ 15 million as of January 1, 2014. Since the program began in 2008, USA Mobility has repurchased approximately 6.3 million shares of its common stock at an average price of $ 9.53 per share.

3:41 pm El Paso Pipeline Partners unit announces Phase 2 of liquefaction project at Elba Island LNG terminal (EPB) : Co announced that Shell US Gas & Power LLC (Shell), a Royal Dutch Shell plc subsidiary, has given notice to Elba Liquefaction Company, L.L.C. to move forward on Phase II of the jointly-owned natural gas liquefaction project at Southern LNG Company’s Elba Island LNG Terminal, near Savannah, Ga. EPB’s Southern Liquefaction Company unit owns 51 percent of Elba Liquefaction Company.

  • Capacity to be added in Phase II will range from 70 million cubic feet per day (MMcf/d) (0.5 million tonnes per year) up to 140 MMcf/d (1.0 million tonnes per year). The estimated capital expenditure of Phase II at the maximum volume of 140 MMcf/d is approximately $ 500 million. 
  • Phase I of the project, consisting of six liquefaction units, will provide approximately 210 MMcf/d of export capacity. It is anticipated to be in service in late 2016 or early 2017. Phase II, covering two additional liquefaction units, has an expected in-service in 2017-2018. 
  • If the maximum volume for Phase II is elected, the Elba liquefaction project is expected to have total capacity of approximately 350 MMcf/d (2.5 million tonnes per year) of LNG.

3:38 pm Earnings Calendar (:SUMRX) : Today after the close look for the following companies to report:

  • NKE, CTAS, AIR, RHT, TIBX

Tomorrow before the open look for the following companies to report:

  • WAG, NAV, KMX, BBRY, FINL

3:35 pm L-3 Comms acquires Mustang Technology Group (LLL) : Co announced effective today, that it has acquired Mustang Technology Group, L.P. The business, now named L-3 Mustang Technology, develops and manufactures radar-based sensors and systems used in precision-guided weapons, electronic warfare, unmanned systems and other military applications. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, L-3 Mustang employs approximately 115 people and its products are used by the U.S. military, government agencies and prime contractors. The business is expected to generate $ 36 million in sales for the year ending December 31, 2013.

3:22 pm S&P -0.8 sets fractional new session high — Dow +12, Nasdaq Comp -12 (:TECHX) :  

3:03 pm Currency Commentary: DXY Holding Gains (:SUMRX) :

  • The Dollar Index has been able to hold the 80.50 level in intraday trade. Trading has been calm in general as the DXY has moved in the 80.50-80.67 area. Volume is likely to continue to dry up as the Fed event is now in the rear view mirror and traders prepare for the end of the year Holiday period. Tomorrow we will get the third and final revision of Q3 GDP which should have minimal impact on currencies. 
  • The euro has been hovering near its two week lows but has been able to hold 1.3650. Markets will be watching wires as the EU wraps up its EU Economic Summit tomorrow. But little is expected at this time as the group has already announced its banking union proposal which was the primary focus for markets. Tomorrow the latest German PPI number and GfK Consumer Survey will be the focus. 
  • The pound made a push toward 1.64 but failed to test the level and is now pulling back to the middle of today’s trading range (1.6336-1.6398). The country will have a busy morning on the economic front as the latest Current Account, Public Sector Net Borrowing, and the final revision of Q3 GDP. 
  • The yen will be a closely watched currency overnight as the Bank of Japan is set to meet overnight. There are some expectations that the central bank will expand its current asset purchase program which has helped the currency slip to a five year low. There is also speculation that the central bank will remove deflation from its commentary which would be viewed as a small victory for Abenomics (BONDX, FOREX). 

2:52 pm NYMEX Energy Closing Prices (:COMDX) :

  • Feb crude oil rose $ 0.99 to $ 99.07/barrel 
    • Crude oil extended yesterday’s gains as it came off its session low of $ 97.85 set at pit trade open. It rose to a session high of $ 99.49 but pulled back slightly in late afternoon floor action and settled with a 1.0% gain. 
  • Jan natural gas rose 20 cents to $ 4.46/MMBtu 
    • Natural gas advanced to the highest level since July 2011 following a record weekly drop in stockpiles. Inventory data for the week ending Dec 13 showed a draw of 285 bcf when a draw of 258-264 bcf was anticipated. Natural gas came off its session low of $ 4.29 and rose as high as$ 4.47 before settling with a 4.7% gain. 
  • Jan heating oil rose 2 cents to $ 3.03/gallon 
  • Jan RBOB rose 4 cents to $ 2.74/gallon

2:47 pm American Intl obtains $ 400 mln of one-year and three-year indemnity reinsurance coverage for diversified commercial and consumer property portfolios (AIG) : Co announced that it has entered into multiple reinsurance placements with Tradewynd Re Ltd., which will provide $ 400 million of indemnity reinsurance protection against U.S., Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico named storms, and U.S. and Canadian earthquakes. Similar to Tradewynd Re Ltd.’s July 2013 catastrophe bond issuance, this arrangement includes a diversified portfolio of commercial and consumer risks. To fund its potential obligations to AIG, Tradewynd Re Ltd. issued three tranches of notes, one with a one-year term and two with three-year terms. Due to strong investor demand and favorable pricing, AIG increased the offering to $ 400 million from the initial $ 100 million.

2:44 pm Sector Summary: S&P 500 Financial Index 290.09, -0.14%- Financials Rest Near Multi-Year Highs (:SUMRX) : The S&P 500 Financial Index is bumping up near multi-year highs of 290. The group rallied following the Fed announcement. It was in lock step with the rest of the market so it is difficult to argue that the move was hopes that interest rates, and thus profitability, was the primary driver. But it certainly played a role in the strength. There is little expected in terms of meaningful news for the remainder of 2013. So it will be up for junior traders and momentum players to push financials to fresh all time highs. Q4 earnings season looms on the horizon with expectations for results to mimic Q3 (Housing slow down, and difficult trading environment). But it does not appear there is anything looming that has investors overly concerned. 

News of Note 

  • Ocwen Fincl (OCN) confirms settlement with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Co disclosed that it has reached an agreement, which is subject to court approval, regarding previously disclosed matters for which a reserve was previously established, involving the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (:CFPB) and various state attorneys general and other agencies that regulate the mortgage servicing industry. As further detailed below, during the second quarter of 2013, Ocwen established a reserve which is expected to cover all but approximately $ 0.5 million of its direct payment obligations in connection with the agreement. 
  • Freddie Mac (FMCC) prices $ 1 bln reopening of 0.875% three-year Reference Notes Security. Co announced that it auctioned a $ 1 billion reopening of its .875% three-year USD Reference Notes security that matures on October 14, 2016. The stop yield for the issue was .675%, priced at 100.555274. The bid-to-cover ratio was 3.78 to 1. After the reopening, which was conducted via an Internet-based auction, the outstanding size of the .875% three-year Reference Notes security will be $ 4.5 billion. 
  • Comerica (CMA) downgraded to Underperform from Neutral at Macquarie; tgt $ 41; American Capital Agency (AGNC) upgraded to Hold from Sell at Sandler O’Neill; JPMorgan Chase (JPM) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Sun Trust Rbsn Humphrey; Discover Financial Services (DFS) initiated with a Neutral at Sun Trust Rbsn Humphrey. 
  • Allstate (ALL) did not exceed its catastrophe reporting threshold for November 2013. Co reported it expects to report a Q4 2013 settlement charge of $ 100-125 mln. Co did not exceed its catastrophe reporting threshold for November 2013. Allstate’s practice is to announce monthly and quarter-to-date estimates for catastrophe losses when monthly catastrophe losses are estimated to exceed $ 150 mln pre-tax. 
  • Deutsche Bank (DB) in discussions with buyers for its uranium business which may be worth $ 200 mln, according to reports.
  • Nationstar Mortgage (NSM) downgraded to Neutral at Compass Point; tgt lowered to $ 41; Fully valued at current levels. Compass Point downgrades NSM to Neutral from Buy and lowers their tgt to $ 41 from $ 42 to take into account a slightly lower earnings estimate following the recently announced servicing advance financing deal between NSM and New Residential (NRZ). Although there will be some interest expense savings for NSM and the release of capital will allow the company to pay down the 2015 debt maturity, firm estimates the fee revenue being paid to NRZ will have a slight drag on earnings in 2014. Hence, firm is lowering its FY14E EPS to $ 5.00 from $ 5.40 and FY15E EPS to $ 5.25 from $ 5.60. 
  • Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) have put restrictions on multi dealer chat rooms, according to reports.

2:41 pm Pretium Resources: Mineral resource estimate adds measured gold resources, increase grade at Valley of the Kings (stock halted) (PVG) : Co reports the NI 43-101-compliant 2013 Valley of the Kings Mineral Resource estimate for its Brucejack Project, completed by Snowden Mining Industry Consultants. Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources total 8.7 million ounces of gold at a grade of 17.6 grams of gold per tonne.

Valley of the Kings High-Grade Gold Mineral Resources; High-grade gold resources in the Valley of the Kings (5.0 g/t gold-equivalent cut-off) total:

  • 8.7 million ounces of gold in the Measured and Indicated Resource categories (15.3 million tonnes grading 17.6 grams of gold per tonne); and 
  • 4.9 million ounces of gold in the Inferred Mineral Resource category (5.9 million tonnes grading 25.6 grams of gold per tonne).

2:40 pm Partner Comms announces the Ministry of Communications’ decision regarding the roaming services hearing; as a default, the access to cellular internet services abroad will be blocked (PTNR) : Co announces that following the Company’s previous reports with respect to the hearing process pertaining to roaming services abroad, the Company received yesterday the Ministry of Communications’ (“MOC”) final decision on this matter.

  • According to the MOC’s decision, effective February 2014, the mobile radio telephone (:MRT) licenses of all of the cellular operators in Israel will be amended so that as a default, the access to cellular internet services abroad will be blocked, unless the subscriber requested to have access to such services or has purchased a roaming services package or has extended his existing package. 
  • Implementation of the MOC’s decision may have a negative effect on the Company’s financial results. The Company intends to exercise mitigating steps, in order to minimize the negative impact of the MOC’s decision, however, at this stage the Company cannot estimate the end effect of the MOC’s decision.

2:27 pm CBOT Agriculture and Ethanol/ICE Sugar Closing Prices (:COMDX) :

  • Mar corn rose 6 cents to $ 4.31/bushel 
  • Mar wheat fell 2 cents to $ 6.10/bushel 
  • Jan soybeans rose 2 cents to $ 13.27/bushel 
  • Jan ethanol rose 7 cents to $ 1.90/gallon 
  • Mar sugar (#16 (U.S.)) rose 0.02 of a penny to 19.41 cents/lbs

1:57 pm Washington Trust increases quarterly dividend 3.6% to $ 0.27 from $ 0.26 per share (WASH) :  

1:51 pm Granite Constr earns ISO 9001:2008 and ISO 14001:2004 certifications for its project management and construction activities on designated projects in its Large Project Group (GVA) :  

1:51 pm COMEX Metals Closing Prices (:COMDX) :

  • Feb gold fell $ 41.00 to $ 1193.60/oz 
    • Gold fell below $ 1200 as the dollar index held gains following yesterday’s FOMC taper announcement. The yellow metal brushed a session high of $ 1207.80 in early morning pit trade and trended slightly lower as the session progressed. It eventually settled with a 3.3% loss at the lowest level since Aug 2010 for the continuous contract. 
  • Mar silver fell $ 0.88 to $ 19.18/oz 
    • Silver also spent all of today’s floor trade in negative territory, trading in a consolidative fashion near the $ 19.20 level. Unable to gain momentum, it settled with a 4.4% loss. 
  • Mar copper fell 3 cents to $ 3.29/lbs

1:30 pm Zebra Tech acquires Hart Systems for ~$ 94 mln in cash (ZBRA) : Co announced that it has acquired Hart Systems, a provider of cloud-based physical inventory management solutions, for approximately $ 94 million in cash, subject to applicable post-closing adjustments.

  • The seller, Topspin Partners LBO, is a Long Island, NY-based private equity firm focused on the lower-middle market. 
  • “The acquisition strengthens Zebra’s leadership position in serving the retail industry with a broad portfolio of innovative offerings, including software and hardware solutions for inventory management and pricing, mobile point-of-sale and a broad set of applications for personalized customer engagement to deliver unique customer insights and efficient retail operations.”
  • The transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to Zebra’s earnings.

1:08 pm Royale Energy completes Cardiff well flowing 1.78 mln cubic feet per day; expects Memento well to begin gas sales on Dec 23 (ROYL) :

  • Co announced that it has completed its latest Sacramento basin natural gas well with a successful stabilized flow rate of 1.78 million cubic feet per day. The Cardiff well was drilled in Colusa County, California on the company’s proprietary 3-D (3 dimensional) seismic survey. The Cardiff well is the ninth well of the year and tested an amplitude anomaly indicating gas in the Forbes formation. Co expects to connect the well to its existing pipeline infrastructure in the area to begin commercial gas sales in early January at an initial sales rate of 1,000,000 cubic feet per day. 
  • In addition, the company expects its Memento well to begin gas sales on Monday December 23.

1:01 pm Arthur J. Gallagher acquires Longfellow Financial, terms not disclosed (AJG) :  

1:00 pm SEI Investments announces it has been selected to provide its range of asset allocations solutions for Jefferson National’s Monument Advisor (SEIC) : Co announced that it has been selected to provide its range of leading asset allocation solutions for Jefferson National’s Monument Advisor, the industry’s first and only Flat-Fee Variable Annuity.

12:59 pm Midday Market Summary: Stocks Little Changed at Midday (:WRAPX) : The major averages are little changed at midday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hovers right at its flat line while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 hold respective losses of 0.3% and 0.2%.

Equities began the session on a lower note amid some profit taking following yesterday’s surge that sent the Dow and S&P 500 to record closing highs. The early selling was limited as the indices notched their lows 45 minutes into the session before staging a turnaround.

The Dow has already returned to its flat line thanks to the outperformance of some of its top-weighted components. Chevron (CVX 123.02, +1.42), IBM (IBM 179.97, +1.27), and Visa (V 216.81, +1.46) hold gains between 0.7% and 1.2%.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has yet to regain its flat line as seven of ten sectors register losses. On the upside, the three advancing sectors-energy, materials, and technology-hold modest gains of no more than 0.2%.

The energy sector (+0.1%) trades just above its flat line as crude oil displays a gain of 1.2% at $ 99.27 per barrel. The other commodity-linked group-materials (+0.1%)-has received support from steelmakers. The Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX 49.25, +0.60) trades higher by 1.2%. Despite the notable gain, the sector also has to contend with significant weakness among miners. The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX 20.52, -0.34) is lower by 1.6% as gold futures trade down 3.3% at $ 1194.60 per troy ounce.

Elsewhere, the tech sector is being underpinned by Accenture (ACN 79.73, +4.11) and Oracle (ORCL 36.52, +1.92) after both reported better-than-expected results.

Even though the technology sector can be found among the leaders, the tech-heavy Nasdaq (-0.3%) continues to hover near its opening levels. The largest index component, Apple (AAPL 545.28, -5.49), has contributed to the weakness as it trades lower by 1.0%. Biotechnology also weighs as the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 218.41, -0.90) displays a loss of 0.4%.

Treasuries hover in the red with the benchmark 10-yr yield up four basis points at 2.93%.

Participants received several economic data points today. The weekly initial claims level increased to 379,000 from an upwardly revised 369,000 (from 368,000). The Briefing.com consensus expected the initial claims level to fall to 333,000. Once again, today’s release was accompanied by a statement saying the claims data was biased with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays responsible for this week’s skewed reading.

November existing home sales hit an annualized rate of 4.90 million units, which was a bit weaker than the rate of 5.00 million units that had been expected by the consensus. The pace for November was down from the prior month’s unrevised rate of 5.12 million units.

Separately, the Leading Indicators report for November increased 0.8%. That followed a 0.2% increase in September, and was better than the 0.6% uptick expected by the consensus.

Lastly, the November Philadelphia Fed Survey rose to 7.0 from 6.5. Economists polled by Briefing.com had expected that the Survey would decline to 5.0.

12:41 pm Notable movers of interest (:SCANX) : The following are some of today’s most notable movers of interest, categorized by market capitalization (large cap over $ 10 billion and mid cap between $ 2-10 billion) and ranked by % change (all stocks over 100K average daily volume).

Large Cap Gainers

  • CAG (33.72 +6.06%): Beat on EPS by $ 0.06, beat on revs; reaffirmed FY14 EPS guidance.
  • ORCL (36.28 +4.85%): Beat on EPS by $ 0.02, beat on revs; sees Q3 EPS of $ 0.68-0.72 vs $ 0.70 consensus; target raised to $ 40 from $ 38 at FBR Capital.
  • ACN (78.91 +4.35%): Beat on EPS by $ 0.05, beat on revs; guided Q2 revs below consensus; raised FY14 EPS slightly, in-line, reaffirmed FY14 constant FX rev.

Large Cap Losers

  • TSLA (141.47 -4.4%): Reuters reported that Model S charging system may have started California garage fire; however, a Bloomberg story out earlier stated the Model S Charger did not cause a garage fire.
  • PRGO (150.56 -3.28%): Resumed with an Overweight at Morgan Stanley; tgt $ 183.
  • ABBV (52.66 -3.06%): Downgraded to Equal-Weight from Overweight at Morgan Stanley.

Mid Cap Gainers

  • IACI (69.31 +15.34%): Co announced it is reorganizing; Greg Blatt, the co’s CEO, will become the Chairman of newly created Match Group.
  • WOR (45.71 +7.12%): Reported Q2 results, beat on revs.
  • PIR (21.58 +4.1%): Missed on EPS by $ 0.02, reported revs in-line; guided Q4 EPS in-line; Q3 comps +6.9%.

Mid Cap Losers

  • CIE (14.19 -9.39%): Announces targeted zones of its Aegean #1 exploratory well on Keathley Canyon Block 163 in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico did not encounter commercial hydrocarbons and operations are underway to plug and abandon the wellbore; tgt lowered to $ 28 at Mizuho.
  • RAD (5.26 -8.68%): Reported GAAP EPS in-line with GAAP consensus including charge related to preferred share redemption, revs in-line; lowered FY14 EPS below consensus, raised FY14 revs in-line; Q3 comps +2.3%; co and GNC (GNC) announced extension of partnership through 2019.
  • ROSE (46.28 -6.07%): Announced its Board of Directors has approved a 2014 capital budget of $ 1.1 bln; expects full year 2014 production to range from 60 — 65 MBoe/d.

12:36 pm Philips Electronics receives FDA clearance for Spectral Breast Density Measurement Application (PHG) : Co announced 510(k) clearance from the FDA for the Spectral Breast Density Measurement Application for its MicroDose SI full-field digital mammography system. The application is the first spectral Breast Density Measurement tool, meaning adipose (fat) and glandular tissue can be differentiated to accurately measure volumetric breast density.

12:26 pm Dow +6.6 and S&P -1.9 edge slightly above tight intraday ranges — Nasdaq Comp -12 (:TECHX) : Dow sets new all time intraday high of 16176.

12:07 pm Feb crude oil pops above $ 99/barrel… Feb crude is now +1.0% at $ 98.98/barrel (:COMDX) :  

12:06 pm Small-/mid-cap indices slip to minor new session lows, major averages continue to drift in tight ranges — Dow -9.5, S&P -3.7, Nasdaq Comp -14 (:TECHX) :  

12:04 pm Marrone Bio Innovations submits biological nematicide for EPA registration (MBII) :

  • Co announced it has submitted MBI-302, a biological nematicide, for registration with the United States EPA. The product utilizes a new patent-pending species of bacteria, Flavobacterium sp. strain H492, discovered in MBI’s discovery screen for suppression of nematodes in agricultural and horticultural crops. It is active against a broad range of plant parasitic nematode species. Field trials conducted in 2013 show that MBI-302, when applied as a seed treatment, reduced soybean cyst nematode numbers and enhanced soybean yields. 
  • MBI is developing the product as a seed treatment and as a liquid to be applied via broadcast, in-furrow, shank, banded or chemigation methods.

11:58 am European Markets Closing Prices (:SUMRX) : European markets are now closed; stock markets across Europe performed as follows:

  • UK’s FTSE:+1.4%
  • Germany’s DAX:+1.7%
  • France’s CAC:+1.6%
  • Spain’s IBEX:+2.3%
  • Portugal’s PSI:+0.7%
  • Italy’s MIB Index:+1.8%
  • Irish Ovrl Index:+1.5%
  • Greece ATHEX Composite: +0.8%

11:57 am Currency Commentary: DXY Rallies As Fed Tapers (:SUMRX) :

  • The Dollar Index is holding on to its post-Fed gains as it floats along the 80.50 level. The DXY rallied to a two week high late yesterday as the Fed decided to begin the tapering process and cut its asset purchase program by $ 10 bln a month to $ 75 bln. The move was some what of a surprise as the majority were expecting the Fed to wait until the January or March 21014 meeting. The tapering was accompanied by dovish language on forward guidance and inflation. Economic data this morning was mixed as Initial Claims and Existing Home Sales missed expectations. The December Philadelphia Fed and November Leading Indicators both outpaced consensus. 
  • The euro has dipped below the 1.37 level this morning as EU Leaders meet at a year end Summit. The group have put into place the first pieces of a long-awaited banking union but the question of a banking back stop remains open. The single currency is now testing its 20 sma (1.3657). It is notable that the euro is now being rejected for the second time in the past two months at the 1.38 level. 
  • The pound is holding the 1.6350 level despite the strength in the dollar. A portion of the support can be attributed to a solid retail sales number that recovered from a dip in November. But it would appear the recent sell off points to profit taking from some investors. And the move over the past two days suggests investors are not ready to move on from sterling yet as it remains one of the strongest currencies in the market. 
  • The yen continued to slide to fresh multi-year lows as the dollar rallied. The yen hit the 104 level for the first time since October of 2008 as it has now erased all its losses from the Great Recession. The yen is up approx 28% since February of 2012 and 27% over the past 14 months. Tongiht the Bank of Japan will be meeting, There are expectations that the central bank will either increase its asset purchase program or hint that it will take such action early in 2014. There is also chatter that the bank will drop deflation from its lexicon (FOREX, BONDX). 

11:41 am Stocks/ETFs that traded to new 52 week highs/lows this session – New highs (227) outpacing new lows (66) (:SCANX) : Stocks that traded to 52 week highs: AA, ABTL, ACXM, ADM, ADSK, AEG, AGX, AKS, ALXN, AME, AMG, AMTD, ANIP, APH, AR, ARAY, ARTC, ARTX, ARWR, ASH, ASTC, AZN, AZPN, BANR, BBX, BKYF, BLX, BMI, BMY, BNCL, BX, BXS, CACC, CAE, CAFI, CAMP, CAR, CBI, CBT, CCRN, CFX, CHSP, CHTP, CMA, CMLS, CNBC, CNO, CSGS, CSL, CTSH, CUDA, CVBF, CVG, CVS, DEPO, DFZ, DGI, DIS, DISH, DLNG, DORM, DOW, DOX, DXPE, EFSC, ENH, ENTG, ETE, ETFC, EVHC, EXAC, FCH, FFBC, FICO, FIS, FLDM, FLML, FLS, FNF, FRME, GB, GFN, GMK, GPK, GS, GTN, HBAN, HCCI, HIMX, HLF, HMNF, HOMB, HOT, HP, HPY, HRS, HVT, IACI, ICE, IGTE, IHG, IILG, IL, ILMN, INFY, INTU, IPXL, IR, ITW, JNS, JW.A, KELYA, KEY, KMX, KORS, KPTI, LAZ, LEAF, LGIH, LLL, LLTC, LM, LOGI, LPLA, LPS, LVLT, LVS, LXFR, MA, MCRS, MDXG, MENT, MGM, MLP, MNRO, MNST, MPEL, MSO, NBCB, NCFT, NEU, NUS, NVAX, NYLD, OI, OMC, OTEX, PAG, PBH, PCCC, PH, PKOH, PL, PNTR, PPBI, PRAN, PRU, PSX, R, RAS, RAVN, RCL, RJF, RNET, ROL, RPM, S, SAPE, SB, SCBT, SCHW, SCL, SF, SGNT, SIVB, SMG, SSP, SSTK, STSA, SWFT, SYNT, TCBI, TCBK, TECH, TESS, TEX, THRM, TISA, TMO, TREX, TRK, TROW, TSS, TTGT, TUP, TX, UA, UFS, UIHC, UIS, UNM, UNS, UPS, URI, V, VIVO, VLO, VNET, VRNT, VRSN, VVTV, WAGE, WAL, WCC, WETF, WFC, WOR, WSBF, WSFS, WX, WYNN, X, XRX, XUE, YHOO, YPF, ZMH

Stocks that traded to 52 week lows: AERG, AKG, AREX, AU, AUQ, BAA, CDE, CGG, CIB, CIE, CPT, CSFS, CVM, CWTR, DGSE, DGX, DM, DO, EGO, EMITF, EVOK, FE, FMAR, GENE, GFI, GG, GTU, HCN, HL, HME, HMY, HXM, IAG, JRS, KGC, KMP, LGL, MAA, MVG, NEM, NGD, ORCT, OXF, PZG, RDNT, RGS, RMGN, ROYT, SIGM, SMTC, SPHS, STRI, SVM, TC, TCO, TGB, TGD, TLYS, TNH, TSTC, TWGP, VEEV, VICL, WGL, WPRT, XPL

ETFs that traded to 52 week highs: FDN, IAI, IGV, IYM, KCE, XLB

ETFs that traded to 52 week lows: FXY, GDX, GDXJ, JJA, REMX, SIL, SMN, VXX

11:36 am Very tight intraday trade persists — Dow -9, S&P -3.2, Nasdaq Comp -10.2 (:TECHX) : The S&P has spent the session in the red following yesterday’s 44 point (+2.4%) surge over the last two hours but trade has been very quiet and tightly confined suggesting virtually no selling interest thus far. Intraday supports for a read are at 1804 prior to the low (1801). On the upside this week’s high is at 1811 with the Nov/all time intraday high at 1813.

11:32 am Feb crude oil futures extend gains, hit a new HoD and approach $ 99/barrel… Feb crude is currently +0.9% at $ 98.92/barrel (:COMDX) :  

11:32 am ADA-ES announces the commencement of operations of an RC facility using M-45-PC technology and additional emissions control equipment awards (ADES) : Co announced that Clean Coal Solutions, a joint venture among its subsidiary ADA-ES, an affiliate of NexGen Resources, and an affiliate of The Goldman Sachs Group (GS), has begun operations of a Refined Coal (“RC”) facility that is treating pulverized coal (“PC”) boilers using M-45-PC technology. The RC facility is located at a power plant that has historically burned about 5 million tons of coal per year. CCS is currently operating the RC facility and retaining the tax benefits generated while it is negotiating the lease or sale to potential RC investors.

Separately, since September 30, 2013, the Company has been awarded more than $ 20 million in new orders for Activated Carbon Injection systems and Dry Sorbent Injection systems from multiple utilities, including a fleet-wide contract for ACI systems from a large utility. 

11:22 am Univest Corp. of PA expands its investment advisory services through the acquisition of Girard Partners (UVSP) : Co entered into an agreement today to acquire Girard Partners, Ltd., a registered investment advisory firm with more than $ 500 million in assets under management. Univest anticipates completion of the acquisition, subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions, in January 2014. As a Univest Company, Girard Partners, Ltd. will continue to operate with its present management structure out of their main office in King of Prussia, Pa., and satellite offices in Richmond, Va. and Fort Myers, Fl. Univest Wealth Management currently has $ 2.5 billion in assets under management through its trust, broker dealer and investment advisory affiliates. With the acquisition, Univest will increase its assets under management to $ 3.0 billion and further strengthen its advisory capabilities.

11:17 am Feb crude oil futures rally to a new HoD of $ 98.82/barrel… Crude oil is now +0.7% at $ 98.78/barrel (:COMDX) :  

11:13 am Google extends to new session high of 1090.18, its multi-year high from last week is at 1092.31 (GOOG) :  

11:12 am Sino-Global Shipping signs strategic agreement with state-owned port logistics company in Jiangsu province (SINO) : Co announced that it has signed a one-year strategic agreement with Jiangsu Lianyungang Port Logistics Holding Co., Ltd., to jointly develop and promote each other’s shipping agency and logistic service businesses both in China and overseas. Under the terms of the Agreement, each party will promote the other party’s services to its existing customers and will share profits generated from such cross-referral activities on a contract-by-contract basis.

11:12 am Freddie Mac prices $ 1 bln reopening of 0.875% three-year Reference Notes Security (FMCC) : Co announced that it auctioned a $ 1 billion reopening of its .875% three-year USD Reference Notes security that matures on October 14, 2016. The stop yield for the issue was .675%, priced at 100.555274. The bid-to-cover ratio was 3.78 to 1. After the reopening, which was conducted via an Internet-based auction, the outstanding size of the .875% three-year Reference Notes security will be $ 4.5 billion.

11:08 am Prosensa Holding comments on drisapersen program update: Analysis of study results still ongoing; ‘we continue to collaborate with patient groups and other key stakeholders’ (RNA) : Co commented on a recent update by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to patient groups and investigators regarding the ongoing analyses for drisapersen, an investigational antisense oligonucleotide, for the treatment of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) patients with an amenable mutation, which is exclusively licensed to GSK.

  • On September 20, GSK and Prosensa announced that results of a Phase III study (DMD114044) of drisapersen in boys with DMD did not meet the primary endpoint. At that time, together with Prosensa, GSK began to evaluate the results in the context of the overall clinical program in addition to performing additional analyses to fully understand the results of this study. 
  • Earlier today, GSK provided an update to patient groups and investigators that the analysis of the results and assessment of next steps are still ongoing. The outcome of this evaluation is anticipated in early 2014. In addition, as publicly announced at the recent PPMD Duchenne Policy Forum, the US Food and Drug Administration is currently looking at the drisapersen data, in part to understand clinical and biomarker endpoints. 
  • In the meantime, GSK has stated that as per their policy, the summary results of the DMD114044 study will be posted on GSK’s Clinical Study Register. 
  • Prosensa’s Chief Executive Officer, Hans Schikan, comments, “Given the devastating impact of DMD on boys and their families, it is of critical importance that this robust dataset is understood in its entirety and no stone is left unturned.” Schikan continued, “The drisapersen program represents one of the largest datasets in this disease to date, and we continue to collaborate with patient groups and other key stakeholders to help patients with DMD.”

11:04 am Carnival (+4.4%) leading cruises (RCL +2.8%, NCLH +1%) higher following upside Q4 results and better than feared FY14 guidance (CCL) :  

10:51 am American Water Works: Settlement approved in Pennsylvania American Water rate case (AWK) : The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (:PUC) today unanimously approved a settlement that allows Pennsylvania American Water to increase water rates. The new rates approved under the PUC settlement maintain the cost of water service at about one penny per gallon for Pennsylvania American Water’s customers. Pennsylvania American Water is a subsidiary of American Water (AWK).

10:50 am Stock indices slightly extend bounce off morning lows — Dow -11, S&P -4.3, Nasdaq Comp -11 (:TECHX) : Relative sector strength on the recovery has been noted in Steel SLX, Internet FDN, Telecom IYZ, Utility UTIL.

10:49 am Winnebago (-11%) attempting to hold support near the $ 28 level after beating EPS on lower than expected rev (WGO) :  

10:37 am Career Education announces its Colorado Technical University awarded initial accreditation of key business programs by The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (CECO) :  

10:30 am Jan natural gas rallies to new session high following inventory data; now up 3.2% at $ 4.39 (:COMDX) :  

10:21 am Opko Health records exit of investment in Sorrento Therapeutics; adds ~$ 22 mln to co’s cash position (OPK) : Co has completed the sale of its stake in Sorrento Therapeutics, Inc. (SRNE), a publicly-traded, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused primarily on the acquisition, discovery, development and commercialization of proprietary therapeutics. The sale of Sorrento shares adds approximately $ 22 million to OPKO’s cash position and represents an approximate ten-fold return of OPKO’s 2009 investment.

10:16 am Mkt Vctrs Steel Sector ETF displaying some relative strength in recent trade (SLX) : X has notched a new session high of 28.38 in recent trade, its 52-wk peak from Nov is just above at 28.41.

10:13 am Covanta: City of Alexandria and Arlington County, VA extend agreement with Covanta Alexandria/Arlington through 2038 (CVA) : Covanta Alexandria/Arlington announced that the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, Virginia have exercised an extension option on their waste disposal and service agreement with the company. The decision continues a relationship between the City, County, and Covanta which began in 1988 and that will now extend for a total of 50 years until 2038. The extension was approved by unanimous vote by both the Alexandria City Council and the Arlington County Board and is expected to provide significant savings to residents over the life of the contract.

10:04 am Fractional new session lows after data, no follow through thus far — Dow -26, S&P -6, Nasdaq Comp -15 (:TECHX) :  

10:01 am Interactive Intelligence announces its cloud-based communications-as-a-service offering has successfully met the Security Standards Council’s Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard 2.0 for Level 1 compliance (ININ) :  

10:01 am VirnetX Holding announces denial of Apple’s (AAPL) petitions for patent review (VHC) : Co announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (:USPTO) has denied seven petitions for inter partes review (:IPR) filed by Apple. These petitions sought review of certain claims of VirnetX’s U.S. Patent Nos. 6,502,135, 7,418,504, 7,490,151 and 7,921,211. The USPTO found that Apple’s petitions were not filed within the time limit imposed by the statute and declined to institute inter partes review.

“We are pleased with the USPTO’s decisions denying Apple’s petitions,” said Kendall Larsen, VirnetX CEO and President. “We continue to believe in the validity of our patents.”

9:54 am S&P -6 and Nasdaq Comp -13 extend opening dip to first level support (:TECHX) : A mildly weaker start to the session has been slightly extended ahead of the 10 ET data bringing first level supports from The Technical Take at 4057/4050 Nasdaq Comp (session low 4056) and 1804/1802 S&P (session low 1804) into play.

9:53 am Horizon Technology Finance announces successful settlement of ACT Biotech, Inc. investment; to record a realized loss of ~$ 1.9 mln in Q4 (HRZN) : Co announced that, in connection with the sale of substantially all of the assets of ACT Biotech, Inc. (“ACT”), Horizon has successfully settled its investment in ACT.

  • In connection with the sale of substantially all of the assets of ACT to a private, venture capital-backed, biotechnology company, Horizon received a cash payment of approximately $ 2.1 million, which Horizon applied to its venture loan balance. Horizon also received the right to receive from ACT up to $ 17 million in contingent contractual success payments. The success payments are subject to the buyer of the ACT assets achieving various development and commercialization milestones with the purchased assets. The Company cannot guarantee that it will receive any success payments. 
  • Horizon expects to record a realized loss on its loan to ACT of approximately $ 1.9 million for the quarter ended December 31, 2013. Horizon had previously recorded unrealized depreciation of $ 1.2 million of this $ 1.9 million in prior periods. Any of the success payments actually received by Horizon would be recorded as income in the period received.

9:47 am Silver futures remain near LoD. Mar silver is now -4.1% at $ 19.23/oz (:COMDX) :  

9:47 am Gold breaks below $ 1200/oz… now down 2.9% at $ 1199.30/oz (:COMDX) :  

9:42 am Weaker tone off the open — Dow -18, S&P -4.5, Nasdaq Comp -10 (:TECHX) : Sector laggards in the early going include: Silver SLV, Gold Miners GDX, Gold GLD, Oil Service OIH, Utility UTIL, Auto (F -1.7%), Casino BJK, Coal KOL. 

9:42 am Opening Market Summary: Stocks Register Opening Losses (:WRAPX) : Equity indices registered opening losses with the Nasdaq (-0.3%) pacing the opening retreat. Interestingly, despite the early underperformance of the Nasdaq, the tech sector (+0.1%) is the only group trading in positive territory.

The remaining nine sectors display losses between 0.1% (energy and materials) and 1.0% (utilities). More importantly, heavily-weighted financials (-0.3%) and health care (-0.3%) are among the early laggards.

Elsewhere, Treasuries have held their levels for the past 45 minutes after spending over four hours in a steady retreat. The benchmark 10-yr yield is higher by five basis points at 2.94%.

November Existing Home Sales, November Leading Indicators, and the December Philadelphia Fed Survey will all be released at 10:00 ET.

9:42 am Freddie Mac announces $ 1 bln reopening of 0.875% three-year Reference Notes Security (FMCC) : Co announced today that it plans to launch a $ 1 billion reopening of its .875% three-year USD Reference Notes security that matures on October 14, 2016. The issue will price today, Thursday, December 19, 2013, and will settle on Monday, December 23, 2013. After the reopening, the outstanding size of the .875% three-year Reference Notes security will be $ 2.5 billion.

9:33 am Numerex Corp. announces the acquisition of certain assets, products and technology used in the remote monitoring and management of bulk tanks (NMRX) : Co announced the acquisition of certain assets, products and technology used in the remote monitoring and management of bulk tanks. With the addition of these new offerings, Numerex expands the scope and scale of its core supply chain and remote monitoring business. This new Numerex solution is purpose-designed for use by regional oil and bulk liquid distributors to manage the bulk inventory of their customers. The solution is currently deployed by distributors and integrated oil and gas companies at large and small retailers, manufacturing sites, and bulk storage facilities.

9:31 am Crude oil futures just took off here, just hit a new HoD (:COMDX) : Feb crude oil is now +0.6% at $ 98.64/barrel.

9:29 am BAE Systems awarded $ 171 mln contract to maintain U.S. Navy’s fleet ballistic missile program (BAESY) : The U.S. Navy has awarded BAE Systems a three-year, $ 171 million contract to continue providing engineering and integration support to its Fleet Ballistic Missile Program. Specifically, the work will focus on the Navy’s Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

9:29 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • CSG International (CSGS) announced that a Middle Eastern mobile network operator has expanded its relationship with CSG to meet increasing subscriber and transaction growth using CSG Singleview. 
  • Johns Manville , a Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) co, has added commercial and residential mineral wool to its full spectrum of insulation products, allowing customers to meet an even broader range of project demands. 
  • EPIX, a JV between Viacom (VIAB), its Paramount Pictures unit, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Lionsgate (LGF), announced the launch of the EPIX app on Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows 8.1 platform, making EPIX the first premium TV network available as an authenticated app in the Windows Store.
  • IsoRay (ISR) announced it has two new medical centers using its sutured seeds in mesh to treat colon and lung cancers. 
  • The state of Oklahoma, Office of Management and Enterprise Services, has named Tyler Technologies (TYL) as a preferred vendor for its Tyler SIS school information system.
  • The last day to ship holiday packages via FedEx (FDX) Express for delivery before Christmas in the U.S. is Monday, Dec. 23.
  • ARM (ARMH) and STMicroelectronics (STM) announced that ST has joined the ARM mbed Project.
  • ING U.S. (VOYA) announced that its Retirement Solutions business has been retained as the service provider for the State of Michigan 401(k) and 457 retirement plans.
  • We Energies, principal utility subsidiaries of Wisconsin Energy (WEC), and Wolverine Power Cooperative announced the two cos have decided to end their JV at the Presque Isle Power Plant. The JV would have resulted in joint ownership of the plant by We Energies and Wolverine along with the installation of emission controls. 
  • Perfect World Entertainment (PWRD) announced a co expansion by creating a console division targeting current and next-gen consoles. Planned console products expected include current and future games from Perfect World Entertainment’s suite of developers.
  • Priceline.com (PCLN) announced the launch of a newly designed iPhone App for Apple’s (AAPL) latest iOS7 mobile operating system. 
  • NetSuite (N) announced the availability of NetSuite for AAPL iPhone 2.1. 
  • NASDAQ (NDAQ) launched real-time quote functionality to its existing Investor Relations web application version of Thomson ONE Investor Relations.
  • Crucial, a brand of Micron (MU), released a new lineup of high-performance memory solutions specifically designed for the new AAPL Mac Pro systems. 
  • Compuware (CPWR) announced its partner psaexpert has been accepted on to the UK G-Cloud listing.
  • ZAGG (ZAGG) introduced the invisibleSHIELD Arsenal, a rugged case for the AAPL iPhone 5s, 5c, 5 and Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy S4. 
  • Oplink (OPLK) Security announced the initial availability of its TripleShield and AlarmShield solutions at Fry’s Electronics stores, Frys.com, and also online at Amazon.com (AMZN). 
  • Fox has acquired film rights to the mystery novel “Murder on the Orient Express” from Acorn Productions Ltd/Agatha Christie Ltd, the UK based rights holding production arm of RLJ Entertainment (RLJE).
  • Premier Exhibitions (PRXI) announced it has partnered with New York based Crossmedia to re-envision and re-launch the company’s exhibition marketing strategy. 
  • ANADIGICS (ANAD) has expanded its sales presence by appointing Alltek Technology as a distributor for the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Rockville Bank (RCKB) and United Bank (UBNK) have identified four branches to consolidate to minimize branch overlap that would occur after their strategic merger of equals.
  • LRAD (LRAD) announced the receipt of international follow-on orders for the LRAD 500X and accessories totaling over $ 660,000 that are scheduled to ship by March 31, 2014 to two member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council in the Middle East. 
  • Glimcher Realty (GRT) announced the acquisition of Arbor Hills, an upscale, open-air center, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

9:28 am CubeSmart increases quarterly dividend 18.2% to $ 0.13 from $ 0.11 per share (CUBE) :  

9:21 am Carnival beats by $ 0.04, beats on revs; guides Q1 EPS below consensus; guides FY14 EPS in-line (CCL) : Reports Q4 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.04 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $ 0.04 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of ($ 0.00); revenues rose 2.2% year/year to $ 3.66 bln vs the $ 3.58 bln consensus.

  • Co issues downside guidance for Q1, sees EPS of ($ 0.11)-(0.07), excluding non-recurring items, vs. ($ 0.05) Capital IQ Consensus Estimate
  • Co issues in-line guidance for FY14, sees EPS of $ 1.50-1.80, excluding non-recurring items, vs. $ 1.63 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate

Commenting on full year 2013, Donald stated, “Even in a challenging year, our co continued to produce strong cash from operations approaching $ 3 bln, funding our capital commitments and returning value to shareholders through regular dividend distributions of $ 775 million and share repurchases of $ 100 mln.”

Donald added that the co also made significant strides on important strategic initiatives including the continued enhancement of its fleet with the debut of Princess Cruises’ 3,500-passenger Royal Princess and AIDA Cruises’ 2,200-passenger AIDAstella. In addition, the company announced an order for a Seabourn vessel expected in 2016 to replace the sale of the three original Seabourn ships, which will exit the fleet during 2014 and 2015. Furthermore, the co announced the retirement of an 800-passenger Costa Cruises vessel..

Further color on outlook:
“At this time, cumulative advance bookings for 2014 are behind the prior year at prices in line with prior year levels. Since Sept, booking volumes for the first three quarters of 2014 are running well ahead of last year’s levels at lower prices. Donald noted, We are catching up on booking volumes and gaining momentum as we enter 2014. We believe the compelling value we have in the marketplace will continue to stimulate strong demand leading to a solid wave period.”

We continue to expect revenue yields to turn positive in the second half of 2014 compared to the prior year.” Based on current booking trends, the company forecasts full year 2014 net revenue yields, on a constant dollar basis, to be down slightly compared to the prior year (in line with the prior year on a current dollar basis). First quarter revenue yields (constant dollars) are expected to decline 3-4% compared to the prior year and improve during the remainder of 2014 based on a recovery in ticket prices. The company expects net cruise costs excluding fuel per ALBD for full year 2014 to be slightly higher than the prior year on a constant dollar basis.”

9:17 am CEL-SCI Corp priced an underwritten public offering of units of common stock and warrants at a price of $ 0.63 per unit for gross proceeds of $ 3 mln, prior to deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses of the Company (CVM) :

  • Co priced an underwritten public offering of units of common stock and warrants at a price of $ 0.63 per unit for gross proceeds of $ 3,000,000, prior to deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses of the Company. Each unit consists of one share of common stock and a warrant to purchase one share of common stock. The common stock and warrants will separate immediately. 
  • The warrants are immediately exercisable, expire October 11, 2018 and have an exercise price of $ 1.25. The warrants have been approved for an unpriced quotation on the OTC Bulletin Board under the symbol “CSCIW,” however no market for the warrants has developed as of the date of this press release. 
  • The offering is expected to close on or about December 24, 2013, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions. CEL-SCI has also granted the underwriters a 45-day option to purchase up to an additional 10% of the shares and/or warrants to cover overallotments.

9:15 am Integrated Silicon announced that Scott D. Howarth, President and CEO, will take medical leave with reduced work duties through the end of February 2014 (ISSI) : Co announced that Scott Howarth, President and CEO, will take medical leave with reduced work duties through the end of February 2014. During this time, Mr. Howarth’s duties will be fulfilled by ISSI’s existing senior management team.

9:15 am Amgen announces positive top-line results from 52-week phase 3 DESCARTES study of Evolocumab in patients with high cholesterol; Study meets primary endpoint of ldl cholesterol reduction (AMGN) :

  • Co announced that the Phase 3 DESCARTES study evaluating the long-term 52-week safety and efficacy of evolocumab for the treatment of high cholesterol met its primary endpoint of percent reduction from baseline in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol at week 52. 
  • Study meets primary endpoint of ldl cholesterol reduction
  • The mean percent reduction in LDL-C, or “bad” cholesterol, was consistent with the results observed in the 52-week analysis of the Phase 2 OSLER (Open Label Study of Long TERm Evaluation Against LDL-C) study. 
  • Evolocumab is an investigational fully human monoclonal antibody that inhibits proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9), a protein that reduces the liver’s ability to remove LDL-C from the blood. 
  • Evolocumab significantly reduced LDL-C, as measured by the accepted standard, preparative ultracentrifugation, from baseline at week 52 compared to placebo. LDL-C reduction at week 12 was consistent with the long-term efficacy at week 52. 
  • Safety was balanced across treatment groups. The most common adverse events (> 5 percent in evolocumab) were nasopharyngitis, upper respiratory tract infection, influenza and back pain.
  • The primary endpoint was percent change from baseline in LDL-C, measured by the accepted standard, preparative ultracentrifugation, after 52 weeks of treatment. Secondary efficacy endpoints included the percent change from baseline in LDL-C and LDL-C response (LDL-C TC) at week 12, and percent change from baseline at week 52 in TC, non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C), apolipoprotein B (ApoB), TC/HDL-C ratio, ApoB/apolipoprotein A1 (ApoA1) ratio, lipoprotein(a), triglycerides, HDL-C and very low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL-C).

9:15 am S&P futures vs fair value: -6.20. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -12.50. (:WRAPX) : Equities are expected to begin today’s session on a lower note as index futures hover near their worst pre-market levels. The S&P 500 futures trade six points below fair value with the entire decline coming in the past 45 minutes. There was no specific catalyst responsible for the drop, which suggests it was likely a function of profit taking after the Dow and S&P 500 ended yesterday’s session at new record closing highs.

The retreat in futures coincided with Treasuries falling to their lows after spending the entire morning in a downtrend. The benchmark 10-yr yield is higher by almost five basis points at 2.94%. More notably, the 5-yr note has been under more aggressive selling pressure with its yield spiking eight basis points to 1.68%.

Pre-market economic data was limited to weekly initial claims, which rose to 379,000 from 369,000. The reading was disappointing at first glance, but the Department of Labor said that seasonal adjustment issues related to the holidays continue to skew claims data.

November Existing Home Sales, November Leading Indicators, and the December Philadelphia Fed Survey will all be released at 10:00 ET.

9:09 am IBM to acquire Aspera; financial terms not disclosed (IBM) : Aspera’s technology helps companies securely speed the movement of massive data files around the world. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter 2014.

9:05 am Allstate did not exceed its catastrophe reporting threshold for November 2013. Co reported it expects to report a Q4 2013 settlement charge of $ 100-125 mln (ALL) : Co did not exceed its catastrophe reporting threshold for November 2013. Allstate’s practice is to announce monthly and quarter-to-date estimates for catastrophe losses when monthly catastrophe losses are estimated to exceed $ 150 mln pre-tax.

Update on Pension Settlement Charge
Allstate expects to report a Q4 2013 settlement charge of $ 100-125 mln, after-tax, in the annual remeasurement of its pension obligations as of Dec 31, 2013. In conjunction with announced changes to employee pension benefit plans, the cos Q3 reports included a settlement charge of $ 49 mln, after-tax, and indicated that Q4 might include an additional settlement charge of a comparable or greater amount.

The settlement charge will be reported in the “corporate and other” segment and impacts operating income, but does not affect underwriting income or combined ratios. Settlement charges are non-cash charges that accelerate the recognition of unrecognized pension benefit cost that would have been incurred in subsequent periods when plan payments, primarily lump sums from qualified pension plans, exceed a threshold of service and interest cost for the period. The value of lump sums paid to employees electing retirement in 2013 is elevated due to historically low interest rates.

Voluntary retirement activity during Q4 was almost five times the typical level. Beginning in 2014, all Allstate employees will earn future pension benefits under a new cash balance formula rather than the current formulas. These changes better align with market practices and provide future pension benefits more equitably to Allstate employees. The changes added $ 599 mln of book value in Q3 of 2013 and will reduce future expenses.

9:04 am Avnet: SanDisk (SNDK) signs global distribution agreement with avnet to broaden availability of flash storage for use in the enterprise and industrial markets (AVT) : Cos announced that Avnet will offer a wide portfolio of flash-based hardware and software solutions from SanDisk to its customers throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America through its Avnet Electronics Marketing and Avnet Technology Solutions operating groups.

9:04 am Aastrom Biosciences granted composition-of-matter patent for ixmyelocel-T in Australia (ASTM) : Co announced that it has been granted a key composition-of-matter patent from the Australian Patent Office for ixmyelocel-T, Aastrom’s cell therapy product candidate. The issued patient, entitled “Mixed Cell Populations for Tissue Repair and Separation Technique for Cell Processing,” provides protection for key characteristics of ixmyelocel-T through 2027. Aastrom now holds patent protection for ixmyelocel-T in Australia, the United States and the European Union.

Aastrom is currently conducting the Phase 2b ixCELL-DCM clinical study of ixmyelocel-T in the United States and Canada for the treatment of advanced heart failure due to ischemic dilated cardiomyopathy, a progressive disease of heart muscle and a leading cause of heart failure and heart transplantation.

9:03 am Medbox announced a 2-for-1 stock split effected in the form of a common stock dividend; record date Dec 18, a declaration date of Dec 28 and a tentative issuance date of January 15, 2014 (MDBX) :  

9:03 am Baxter Receives FDA Approval of FEIBA [Anti-Inhibitor Coagulant Complex] for Prophylactic Treatment of Hemophilia A&B Patients with Inhibitors (BAX) : Co announces that the US Food and Drug Administration (:FDA) granted approval of Baxter’s FEIBA [Anti-Inhibitor Coagulant Complex], the first and only FDA-approved treatment for routine prophylaxis to prevent or reduce the frequency of bleeding episodes in patients with hemophilia A or B who have developed inhibitors.

“FEIBA has been an effective treatment for hemophilia patients with inhibitors for more than 35 years as an on-demand treatment. FEIBA was first licensed in the US as FEIBA VH and then as FEIBA NF. This additional indication for prophylactic treatment is aimed at reducing the number of bleeds among this patient population.”

9:01 am Entertainment Gaming Asia announces update on civil action complaint; court of appeals for the second circuit court affirms district court’s ruling for dismissal of the second amended complaint in its entirety (EGT) :

  • Co announced an update on a civil action complaint filed against the Company and certain of its current and former directors and officers on March 26, 2010 by certain former shareholders of the Company including Prime Mover Capital Partners L.P., Strata Fund L.P., Strata Fund Q.P. L.P., and Strata Offshore Fund, Ltd in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
  • The Complaint concerns various allegations of federal and state securities violations, breaches of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation and breaches of contract. The most current summary of the Complaint can be found in the Company’s Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q filed with the SEC on November 14, 2013. 

9:01 am Chanticleer files joint status report regarding mediation; parties have agreed to a cash settlement of $ 850,000 of which $ 837,500 will be paid by the co’s insurance carrier and $ 12,500 to be contributed by Creason & Associates (HOTR) : Co announced that it, through its counsel, Stanley Wakshlag of Kenny Nachwalter, P.A., has filed on behalf of all parties a Joint Status Report in relation to a court ordered mediation that took place on December 10, 2013 regarding the class action suit (Case No.: 12-CV-81123-JIC) of Francis Howard v. Chanticleer Holdings, Inc., Michael D. Pruitt, Eric S. Lederer, Paul I Moskowitz, Keith Johnson, Mark Hezlett, and Creason & Associates, P.L.L.C.

On December 18, 2013, the parties came to an agreement in principal to a class-wide settlement, subject to negotiation and execution of definitive documentation and Court approval. Although other material provisions remain to be negotiated, the parties have agreed to a cash settlement of $ 850,000 of which $ 837,500 will be paid by the Co’s insurance carrier, XL Specialty Insurance Company, and $ 12,500 to be contributed by Creason & Associates, PLLC.

8:59 am Gapping up/down: SCS +7.0%, AKS +6.8%, SMTC -18.0% on earnings; FB -2.7% on offering; (:SUMRX) : Gapping up:

In reaction to strong earnings/guidance:
SCS +7.0%, AKS +6.8%, STAY +5.7%, CAG +5.1%, PAYX +1.6%, ORCL +0.1%, BGCP 0.0%

M&A news
: BMY +1% (BMY to sell its diabetes business to AstraZeneca (AZN); raises Quarterly div by $ 0.01 to $ 0.36 per share); BAYRY +0.1% (Bayer AG plans to acquire Norwegian pharmaceutical co Algeta for NOK 362 per share in cash; implies equity value of NOK 17.6 bln (EUR 2.1 bln)
  
Other news:  ALIM +90% (co and FDA Enter Into Labeling Discussions for ILUVIEN, Agree Advisory Committee No Longer Necessary); PSDV +58% (partnered with ALIM, co and FDA Enter Into Labeling Discussions for ILUVIEN, Agree Advisory Committee No Longer Necessary; CDTI +29% (announced that it has received two significant emission reduction product verifications from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) for use in heavy duty highway truck engines and off-road engines); OXBT +8.5% (provides a business review and update in conjunction with filing of 2Q2014 financials; in 2014, co anticipates enrolling first patient in the Phase 3 trial for levosimendan in cardiac surgery patients at risk for developing LCOS in July 2014); CCIH +8.3% (still checking); HYGS +8.0% (selected as a participating partner in a DOE project award to supply hydrogen fuel cell modules to the Center for Transportation and the Environment); GILT +7.6% (awarded a project valued at $ 30 mln as part of the Integracion Amazonica Loreto; awarded $ 99-million project from Colombia’s MINTIC); USU +7.3% (was informed that Department of Energy Prepared to Extend American Centrifuge RD&D Program Three Months) STNG +5.0% (still checking); PERI +4.6% (still checking); TRLA +4.0% (S.A.C. Capital discloses 5.2% passive stake in 13G filing); COG +2.7% (announces agreement to provide natural gas to the Dominion Cove Point LNG Terminal); BBRY +1.3% (announced two appointments that strengthen the Company’s strategy, marketing and operations); HALO +2.1% (still checking); CIEN +1.7% (ollowing favorable mention on Mad Money); TSL +0.3% (Trina Solar has been chosen as the sole supplier of 25 MW of modules to Phase III of the 75 MW Bangchak Solar Energy Project in Thailand)

Analyst comments:  RMTI +7.9% (Chardan Capital Markets Initiated Coverage with a Buy and $ 22 tgt); CHTP +2.5% (initiated with a Mkt Outperform at JMP Securities)

Gapping down:

In reaction to disappointing earnings/guidance:  SMTC -18.0% (downgraded at Oppenheimer, B. Riley), RAD -5.7%, KBH -3.3%, APOG -2.5%, DRI -1.2%, MLHR -0.8%

Precious metals stocks getting hit with weakness in underlying metals:  GFI -3.8%, SLV -3.1%, AUY -2.7%, AU -2.6%, HMY -2.5%, KGC -2.4%, RGLD -2.3%, NEM -2.0%
  
Other news: GIG -8.5% announces proposed public offering of common stock (no amount given); CVM -8.5% announces proposed public offering of common stock and warrants (amount not given); VRTX -7.5% Vertex Pharm announces results of Phase 3 Study of Ivacaftor in people with CF who have the R117H Mutation; study did not meet its primary endpoint); CIE -7.2% announces targeted zones of its Aegean #1 exploratory well on Keathley Canyon Block 163 in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico did not encounter commercial hydrocarbons and operations are underway to plug and abandon the wellbore); IBN -5.3% (still checking for anything specific); SPCB -4.5% (priced 3 mln ordinary shares at $ 4.00 per share); FB -2.7% Facebook commences public offering of 70 mln shares of its Class A common stock; total of 27,004,761 shares are being offered by co, and a total of 42,995,239 shares are being offered by certain selling stockholders, including 41.35 mln shares offered by Mark Zuckerberg); WDR -1.6% (Waddell & Reed increases quarterly dividend by 21% to $ 0.34 per share from $ 0.28 per share); TSLA -0.7% (Tesla Motors Model S charging system may have started California garage fire, according to reports); MCD -0.3% (McDonald’s Japan lowers revenue forecast to JPY 280 bln versus prior guidance of JPY 285 bln); UUUU -0.2% Energy Fuels enters into a Securities Purchase Agreement to sell all of its shares of Bayswater Uranium to Mega Uranium in exchange for 1.75 mln newly issued common shares of Mega)

 

8:58 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • OPKO Health (OPK) has completed patient recruitment in the second phase 3 trial of Rayaldy to treat patients with secondary hyperparathyroidism, stage 3 or 4 chronic kidney disease and vitamin D insufficiency. The endpoints of both studies, which are being conducted in parallel, include vitamin D status and changes in serum calcium, serum phosphorus and plasma intact parathyroid hormone. 
  • TD Ameritrade, a broker-dealer subsidiary of TD Ameritrade Holding (AMTD), announced the launch of an enriched and customizable Web experience for retail investors with their redesigned flagship trading platform. 
  • Iteris (ITI) was one of three firms selected for a five-year IDIQ contract for Traffic Design and Operations Training Services, from the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA has budgeted a ceiling of $ 17.7 mln for the five-year training program.
  • Host Hotels & Resorts (HST) sold the Dallas/Addison Marriott Quorum for $ 55.7 mln.
  • Car Charging Group has installed a Nissan EV DC Fast Charger at Simon Property Group’s (SPG) Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California.
  • The Board of Directors for Idaho College and Career Readiness Academy in partnership with K12 (LRN), announced the creation of a new, online technical high school for students in Idaho. 
  • American Axle & Manufacturing (AXL) announced the introduction of the automotive industry’s first disconnecting all-wheel-drive system, EcoTrac on the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee.

8:57 am S&P futures vs fair value: -6.30. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -12.50. (:WRAPX) : U.S. equity futures fell to their lows during the past 30 minutes of action without a specific catalyst. The S&P 500 futures now trade more than six points below fair value.

Asian markets ended mixed as Japan’s Nikkei (+1.7%) rallied while markets in China (-1.0%) and Hong Kong (-1.1%) lagged as the recent liquidity crunch intensified once again. The two-week Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate jumped almost 114 basis points to 6.218%.

Economic data was scarce. Japan’s foreign bonds buying report indicated net purchases in the amount of JPY110.50 billion (JPY390.10 billion prior). Separately, the All Industries Activity Index ticked down 0.2% month-over-month (-0.2% expected, 0.5% last). Elsewhere, New Zealand’s GDP rose 1.4% quarter-over-quarter (1.1% consensus, 0.3% previous).

  • Japan’s Nikkei gained 1.7%, ending less than 100 points below its mid-May high as heavyweights Fast Retailing and FANUC led the advance. The two names settled higher by 4.5% and 4.1%, respectively. 
  • Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1.1% after falling from its flat line into the close. Property names weighed as China Resource Land and Hang Lung Properties fell 2.5% and 4.6%, respectively. 
  • China’s Shanghai Composite slid 1.0%, ending on its lows. Financials weighed as China Vanke lost 1.5%. 

Major European indices hold solid gains across the board. Among new of note, there are reports circulating that Eurozone finance ministers have reached an agreement on a single resolution mechanism to be used in winding down troubled banks. Elsewhere, Fitch affirmed the United Kingdom’s sovereign rating at ‘AA+’ with a Stable outlook.

Investors received several economic data points. Eurozone current account surplus expanded to EUR21.80 billion from EUR14.90 billion (EUR14.20 billion expected). Great Britain’s retail sales ticked up 0.3% month-over-month (0.3% expected, -0.9% prior) while the year-over-year reading increased 2.0% (2.3% forecast, 1.8% last). Core retail sales increased 0.4% month-over-month (0.3% consensus, -0.7% prior) while the year-over-year reading pointed to an increase of 2.3% (2.5% forecast, 2.3% last). Italy’s wages were unchanged month-over-month (0.2% prior). Elsewhere, Spain’s industrial new orders fell 4.0% year-over-year (1.1% expected, -0.3% prior).

  • Great Britain’s FTSE is higher by 1.0% with industrials and financials in the lead. Petrofac is higher by 4.3% and Standard Life holds an advance of 2.8%. Miners lag with Fresnillo, Glencore Xstrata, and Randgold Resources down between 0.5% and 2.9%. 
  • In France, the CAC trades up 1.2% as growth-sensitive names contribute to the gains. Technip is higher by 3.2% while financials AXA and Credit Agricole trade with respective gains of 3.0% and 2.3%. 
  • Germany’s DAX sports an advance of 1.3%. Deutsche Boerse leads with a gain of 2.6% while Deutsche Post follows (+1.9%) not far behind. On the downside, HeidelbergCement is lower by 0.8%.

8:54 am Ur-Energy raises $ 5.18 mln private placement financing resulting from sale and issuance of ~4,709,089 units at a purchase price of $ 1.10/unit. (URG) :

  • Co announced that it has entered into definitive agreements with a number of new and existing accredited investors in connection with a private placement, or PIPE, financing. Upon closing of the PIPE financing, Ur-Energy will receive gross proceeds of ~$ 5.18 million resulting from the sale and issuance of ~4.709 mln units at a purchase price of US$ 1.10 per unit. 
  • Each unit consists of one common share and one-half of a warrant to purchase one common share at an exercise price of US$ 1.35 per share. The warrants are exercisable for three years.
  • The financing, which is expected to close prior to the close of business on December 20, 2013, is subject to the satisfaction of certain customary closing conditions contained in the securities purchase agreement, including receipt of applicable regulatory approvals. 
  • Ur-Energy expects to use the proceeds to partially satisfy payments due in connection with the consummation of the Company’s previously announced acquisition of Pathfinder Mines Corporation.  

8:51 am Neogen misses by $ 0.02, beats on revs (NEOG) : Reports Q2 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.17 per share, $ 0.02 worse than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.19; revenues rose 17.6% year/year to $ 59.6 mln vs the $ 58.13 mln consensus. Adjusted for a 3-for-2 stock split effective Oct. 31, 2013, earnings per share in the current quarter were $ 0.17, compared to $ 0.19 a year ago.

Neogen’s gross margin was 49.5% of sales in its second quarter, compared to 53.8% of sales for FY 2013’s second quarter. This decrease was largely the result of product mix shifts within each of the company’s operating segments.

On the Food Safety side, lower sales of mycotoxin test kits, which have higher gross margins, adversely impacted margin percentages. Strong growth in the remainder of the Food Safety product lines more than overcame lost mycotoxin revenues, albeit at lower gross margins.

Within the Animal Safety segment, the incremental product revenues from the SyrVet and Prima Tech acquisitions resulted in a lower gross margin percentage. However, each of these businesses is expected to make healthy contributions to income once fully integrated into the co, since they are “bolt-ons” to existing operations. These acquisitions, when combined with the company’s existing strong presence in the veterinary instrument market, gives the co a leading position in the market.

8:49 am Las Vegas Sands refinances into a new long-term credit facility and retires all of the outstanding debt under its existing domestic credit facility (LVS) : Co announced that it has refinanced into a new long-term credit facility and has retired all of the outstanding debt under its existing domestic credit facility.

8:48 am Gold and silver extend losses, hit new LoD (:COMDX) : Feb gold is now -2.7% at $ 1201.20/oz, Mar silver is -4.4% at $ 19.18/oz.

8:48 am Spansion amends secured term loan facility and will retire 2017 senior notes (CODE) :

  • As part of the amendment, Spansion reduced the interest rate on its $ 216 mln term loan, from LIBOR+400 basis points, with LIBOR floor of 1.25% to a level of LIBOR+300 basis points, with LIBOR floor of 0.75%. 
  • In addition, the company increased its outstanding term loan amount from ~$ 216 mln to $ 300 mln, of which ~$ 84 mln of the proceeds along with its own cash will redeem the remainder (~$ 94 mln) of the 7 7/8% senior notes outstanding. Redemption of senior notes will take place in January 2014. The maturity date of the $ 300 mln senior term loan was extended by one year to December 2019.

8:47 am iStar Financial announces that listed shares of its common and preferred stock will commence trading on the NYSE under the new symbol ‘STAR’ beginning this morning (SFI) :  

8:46 am InterActiveCorp announces it is reorganizing; Greg Blatt, the co’s CEO, will become the Chairman of ewly created Match Group (IACI) : announced today that it is reorganizing and that Greg Blatt, the Company’s CEO, will become the Chairman of the newly created Match Group, which will initially consist of IAC’s Match businesses, Tutor.com, DailyBurn and IAC’s investment in Skyllzone. Mr. Blatt will continue to report directly to Barry Diller, the Chairman and Senior Executive of the Company.

Sam Yagan, the CEO of Match, will become CEO of the Group, continuing to report to Mr. Blatt, where he will focus on growing the dating businesses, leveraging best practices across the Match Group, and expanding the Match Group portfolio beyond its current verticals. Mr. Blatt will step down as CEO of IAC, and the Co does not intend to name a new CEO. Instead, Joey Levin, CEO of Search & Applications, and Kerry Trainor, CEO of Vimeo, will now report directly to Mr. Diller.

8:41 am European Markets Update: FTSE +1.1%, CAC +1.2%, DAX +1.2% (:SUMRX) : Major European indices hold solid gains across the board. Among new of note, there are reports circulating that Eurozone finance ministers have reached an agreement on a single resolution mechanism to be used in winding down troubled banks. Elsewhere, Fitch affirmed the United Kingdom’s sovereign rating at ‘AA+’ with a Stable outlook.

Investors received several economic data points. Eurozone current account surplus expanded to EUR21.80 billion from EUR14.90 billion (EUR14.20 billion expected). Great Britain’s retail sales ticked up 0.3% month-over-month (0.3% expected, -0.9% prior) while the year-over-year reading increased 2.0% (2.3% forecast, 1.8% last). Core retail sales increased 0.4% month-over-month (0.3% consensus, -0.7% prior) while the year-over-year reading pointed to an increase of 2.3% (2.5% forecast, 2.3% last). Italy’s wages were unchanged month-over-month (0.2% prior). Elsewhere, Spain’s industrial new orders fell 4.0% year-over-year (1.1% expected, -0.3% prior).

  • Great Britain’s FTSE is higher by 1.1% with industrials and financials in the lead. Petrofac is higher by 4.3% and Standard Life holds an advance of 2.8%. Miners lag with Fresnillo, Glencore Xstrata, and Randgold Resources down between 0.5% and 2.9%. 
  • In France, the CAC trades up 1.2% as growth-sensitive names contribute to the gains. Technip is higher by 3.2% while financials AXA and Credit Agricole trade with respective gains of 3.0% and 2.3%. 
  • Germany’s DAX sports an advance of 1.2%. Deutsche Boerse leads with a gain of 2.6% while Deutsche Post follows (+1.9%) not far behind. On the downside, HeidelbergCement is lower by 0.8%.

8:38 am KB Home misses by $ 0.16, misses on revs (KBH) : Reports Q4 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.31 per share, $ 0.16 worse than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.47; revenues rose 7.0% year/year to $ 618.5 mln vs the $ 664.66 mln consensus. 

  • Double-digit increases in each of the Company’s Southwest, Central and Southeast homebuilding regions were partly offset by a decrease in its West Coast homebuilding region. Homes delivered decreased 4% from the fourth quarter of 2012 to 2,038 homes, reflecting a decline in deliveries from the Company’s West Coast homebuilding region that was partially offset by increases in each of the Company’s other three homebuilding regions. 
  • The overall average selling price grew to $ 301,100, up 11% from the year-earlier quarter, extending the Company’s trend of year-over-year increases. The increase in the average selling price reflected the Company’s ongoing investment in higher-performing, choice locations in land constrained growth markets that feature higher household incomes and demand for larger home sizes, as well as incremental revenues generated through lot premiums, options and upgrades, and generally favorable housing market conditions. Each of the Company’s homebuilding regions posted a higher average selling price compared to the year-earlier quarter. Average selling price increases ranged from 10% in the Company’s Southeast homebuilding region to 29% in its West Coast homebuilding region. 
  • Adj. housing gross profit margin expanded by 470 basis points to 19.8% for the current quarter from 15.1% for the year-earlier quarter. 
  • Potential future housing revenues in backlog at November 30, 2013 increased to $ 682.5 million, up 10% from $ 618.6 million at November 30, 2012. The number of homes in the Company’s backlog was 2,557 at November 30, 2013, essentially flat compared to 2,577 at November 30, 2012, although projected housing gross profit margins in backlog were higher year over year. 
  • The overall value of net orders for the 2013 fourth quarter was $ 481.7 million, up 5% from $ 459.3 million in the year-earlier quarter. Three of the Company’s four homebuilding regions reported year-over-year growth in net order value, with increases ranging from 27% in the Southeast region to 72% in the Southwest region. 
  • The co generated 1,556 net orders in the fourth quarter of 2013, essentially even with the year-earlier quarter. Net orders were up in each of the co’s homebuilding regions, with the exception of its West Coast homebuilding region, which experienced a YoY decrease largely as a result of the co’s ongoing strategic operational shift within the region toward coastal submarkets, the sell-out of older communities and delays in new community openings.

8:37 am IPC The Hospitalist acquires practices in Michigan and Florida; financial terms not disclosed (IPCM) : Co announced that it has acquired two Michigan-based practice groups: Bruce G. Johnson, D.O., PC, based in Roseville; and Allen Trager, D.O., PC, located in Flint. In addition, the co acquired the practice of Victor Toledano, M.D., PA, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Each of the acquired practices is located in markets where IPC already has an established presence.

8:35 am Bio-Reference Labs reports EPS in-line, revs in-line (BRLI) : Reports Q4 (Oct) earnings of $ 0.40 per share, excluding non-recurring items, in-line with the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate consensus of $ 0.40; revenues rose 17.6% year/year to $ 192.2 mln vs the $ 191.51 mln consensus. 

“BioReference remains more than ever a growth company, grounded in innovation. BioReference has contemplated, conceived and implemented not only new testing modalities that have led the market but we have also created franchises that are readily identified by specialist physicians around the country as the source and provider of these new innovative testing services. Nonetheless, over the past year, specifically during the fourth quarter of FY13, we identified a significant reduction in reimbursement, particularly from commercial payers. We previously disclosed that we had identified a sequential drop in quarterly revenue, excluding our genetic testing revenues, in the aggregate amount of approximately 4% from Q3FY13 to Q4FY13. The reduction in reimbursement from payers is an industry-wide issue that we believe has been observed by many companies in our space. Simultaneously, we experienced significant expenses relating to the integration of our acquisitions in Florida and California as well as the initial rollout of our Inherited Cancers program at GeneDx. While the expenses related to the integration of acquisitions and the Inherited Cancer program adversely affected our Q4FY13 results of operations, we believe they will also be the foundations for our growth in 2014 and beyond.”

8:35 am Zoetis increases quarterly dividend by 11% to $ 0.072 per share (ZTS) :  

8:35 am Rosetta Stone announced that it has agreed to acquire Vivity Labs, creator of the Fit Brains product portfolio, for $ 12 million in cash (RST) :

  • Co announced that it has agreed to acquire Vivity Labs Inc., creator of the successful Fit Brains product portfolio, for $ 12 million in cash.
  • In 2014, Rosetta Stone expects that the acquisition of Vivity Labs will contribute bookings in a range of $ 3 million to $ 5 million. 
  • Adjusted Operating EBITDA is expected to be in a range of $ 1 million to $ 2 million. After 2015 and beyond, Rosetta Stone expects double-digit percentage bookings growth and Adjusted Operating EBITDA margins of 20-30%. 
  • The company expects to provide an update for its 2014 outlook when it reports fourth quarter 2013 earnings results. Rosetta Stone expects to close the transaction in January 2014.

8:34 am OvaScience and Intrexon (XON) collaborate to accelerate development of OvaScience’s OvaTure technology for infertility treatments; also form jv to develop applications to prevent inherited human diseases and improve animal health (OVAS) :

  • Cos announced an agreement to access Intrexon’s portfolio of technologies to accelerate the development of OvaScience’s OvaTure technology platform. Separately, the companies established a Joint Venture, called OvaXon, to combine their unique technology platforms to create new applications for improving human and animal health. 
  • Under the ECC agreement, OvaScience will gain access to all Intrexon technologies and expertise to accelerate development of OvaTure in exchange for a $ 2.5 million payment by OvaScience to Intrexon in common stock due upon signing, and $ 2.5 million due one year later. The agreement also provides for a commercial milestone payment as well as royalties, which are dependent upon timing of completion by Intrexon. OvaScience will retain all commercial rights to OvaTure.

8:33 am Nexstar and Mission Broadcasting to acquire six television stations in two markets from Gray Television (GTN) and Excalibur Broadcasting for $ 37.5 mln in accretive transactions (NXST) :

  • Co announced that it and Mission Broadcasting have entered into definitive agreements to acquire six television stations in two markets for $ 37.5 million, in transactions that are expected to be immediately accretive upon closing. The stations are being acquired from Gray Television (GTN) and Excalibur Broadcasting, and represent the equity interests of certain subsidiaries of Hoak Media and Parker Broadcasting which Gray and Excalibur previously agreed to purchase from Hoak and Parker, respectively. 
  • Under the terms of the agreements, Nexstar will acquire five stations from Gray, and Mission will acquire one station from Excalibur, Nexstar will fund $ 33.5 million of the purchase consideration and Mission will fund the $ 4 million balance. 
  • The acquisitions will be funded through internal sources, borrowings under the existing credit facilities and future credit market transactions. In the first twelve months following the closing of the transactions, the acquired stations are expected to generate ~$ 7 million in adjusted Broadcast Cash Flow and are expected to provide free cash flow accretion in the first two years of ownership of ~$ 0.12 to $ 0.15 per share per year.
  • The purchase price for the six stations represents a multiple of approximately 5.9 times the expected average 2013/2014 broadcast cash flow of the acquired stations after giving effect to anticipated operating improvements and synergies identified by Nexstar.

8:31 am S&P futures vs fair value: -2.00. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -5.30. (:WRAPX) : The S&P 500 futures continue to hover two points below fair value.

The latest weekly initial jobless claims count totaled 379,000, which was higher than the 333,000 that had been expected by the Briefing.com consensus. Today’s tally was above the revised prior week count of 369,000 (from 368,000). As for continuing claims, they rose to 2.884 million from 2.790 million.

8:30 am Clean Diesel Technologies pops 29% to 1.73 on light volume following EPA Verifications for Purifilter EGR and Purifilter OR (CDTI) : As mentioned at 8:26, co announced that it has received two significant emission reduction product verifications from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (the “EPA”) for use in heavy duty highway truck engines and off-road engines.

8:26 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • DaVita (DVA) Clinical Research announced a non-exclusive agreement with Pacific Pharma to provide consulting, program strategy and protocol design support for clinical pharmacology studies performed at DCR. 
  • Children’s Hospital St. Elisabeth in Neuburg and Masimo (MASI) announced that the hospital installed the largest Patient SafetyNet system in Germany.
  • Clean Diesel Technologies (CDTI) has received two significant emission reduction product verifications from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use in heavy duty highway truck engines and off-road engines. 
  • Glu Mobile (GLUU) announced the availability of Deer Hunter 2014 for Facebook (FB). 
  • PowerCloud Systems announced that its wireless LAN infrastructure solutions are now available through SYNNEX ‘s (SNX) CLOUDSolv technology solution platform.
  • DDR (DDR) announced the successful lease-up and construction of Seabrook Commons, a 380,000-square-foot prime power center that will open in the summer of 2014 in Seabrook, New Hampshire. 
  • Syneron Medical (ELOS) announced that the me brand of home-use hair removal systems received an expanded indication for use from the FDA for permanent reduction in hair growth.
  • Vision-Sciences (VSCI) entered into an agreement with 21st Century Oncology, under which Vision-Sciences is 21st Century’s Preferred Vendor of Choice for endoscopy equipment used for evaluation and treatment procedures in multiple therapeutic and cancer care areas.
  • BlackBerry (BBRY) announced that BBM is used by more than 85% of BlackBerry Enterprise Server enabled organizations running BlackBerry smartphones. 
  • Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) announced the opening of its newest restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland, at Westfield Montgomery mall. 
  • QUMAS, an Accelrys (ACCL) co, announced that after an extensive evaluation process that Imperial Tobacco Group has chosen the QUMAS Compliance Platform to manage quality content and processes across its manufacturing and research and development groups.

8:25 am Asian Markets Close: Nikkei +1.7%, Hang Seng -1.1%, Shanghai -1.0% (:SUMRX) : Asian markets ended mixed as Japan’s Nikkei (+1.7%) rallied while markets in China (-1.0%) and Hong Kong (-1.1%) lagged as the recent liquidity crunch intensified once again. The two-week Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate jumped almost 114 basis points to 6.218%.

  • Economic data was scarce: 
    • Japan’s foreign bonds buying report indicated net purchases in the amount of JPY110.50 billion (JPY390.10 billion prior). Separately, the All Industries Activity Index ticked down 0.2% month-over-month (-0.2% expected, 0.5% last). 
    • New Zealand’s GDP rose 1.4% quarter-over-quarter (1.1% consensus, 0.3% previous). 
  • Japan’s Nikkei (+1.7%) settled less than 100 points below its mid-May high as heavyweights Fast Retailing and FANUC led the advance. The two names settled higher by 4.5% and 4.1%, respectively. 
  • Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (-1.1%) spent the bulk of the session near its flat line before falling to lows into the close. Property names weighed as China Resource Land and Hang Lung Properties fell 2.5% and 4.6%, respectively. 
  • China’s Shanghai Composite (-1.0%) settled on its lows. Financials weighed as China Vanke lost 1.5%. 
  • India’s Sensex (-0.7%) spent the entire session in the red as bank shares lagged. HDFC Bank fell 2.1% and ICICI Bank slid 3.0%. 
  • Australia’s ASX (+2.1%) finished ahead of other regional indices. BHP Billiton surged 2.8% and Rio Tinto jumped 1.8%. 
  • Regional Advancers: Indonesia +0.9%, Singapore +0.3%, South Korea +0.1%, Taiwan +0.7% 
  • Regional Decliners: Malaysia -0.1%, Philippines -0.6% 
  • Currencies: USDCNY fell to 6.0713…USDINR rose to 62.38…USDJPY is higher near 104.30…AUDUSD is little changed at .8845.

8:16 am Gogo and Aeromexico agree on principal terms and conditions relating to providing in-flight Internet and wireless in-flight entertainment service on at least 75 aircraft (GOGO) :

  • Aeromexico, together with Gogo, announced that they have agreed on the principal terms and conditions relating to providing in-flight Internet and wireless in-flight entertainment service – Gogo Vision – on at least 75 aircraft.
  • As part of providing end-to-end solutions for any fleet anywhere, the new service will utilize Gogo’s Ku-band satellite service for Aeromexico’s 737 aircraft, and Inmarsat’s SwiftBroadband satellite service for their regional jets. Gogo expects both its connectivity service and Gogo Vision to be available to Aeromexico passengers on the second half of 2014.

8:15 am Affiliated Managers to acquire a majority equity interest in SouthernSun Asset Management; financial terms not disclosed (AMG) : Co acquired a majority equity interest in SouthernSun Asset Management, LLC. After the closing of the transaction, SouthernSun’s partners will continue to hold a substantial portion of the equity of the business and direct its day-to-day operations. With ~$ 5 billion in assets under management, SouthernSun was founded in 1989 and manages long-term, concentrated portfolios through a fundamental, research-intensive investment process.

8:10 am Violin Memory provides business update; reiterates its long-term financial model expectations (VMEM) : VMEM provides a business update. Says it remains on track to launch additional, major product offerings in early 2014 that will strengthen the company’s software stack and position the company to maintain its leadership in the enterprise memory market. Also says it expects to achieve profitability in 2015 and reiterates the following long-term expectations:

Gross margins between 58-62%; Sales and marketing expense that is expected to be between 24-26% f revenue; Engineering expense that is expected to be between 15-16% of revenue; Operating margin that is expected to be between 14-16%of revenue. As of October 31, 2013, VMEM had cash and investments totaling approximately $ 134 mln and lines of credit aggregating $ 58 mln.

8:07 am Forest Labs Announces New FETZIMA (levomilnacipran ER capsules) Now Available in Pharmacies Throughout U.S. (FRX) : Co announced today that FETZIMA (levomilnacipran ER capsules), is now available in pharmacies throughout the United States. FETZIMA was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (:FDA) for the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also known as depression, in adults in July 2013. FETZIMA is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (:SNRI). The efficacy of FETZIMA was established in three positive double-blind Phase III studies comprising two fixed-dose studies and one flexible-dose study that compared FETZIMA to placebo in adults with MDD.

8:07 am Cobalt International Energy announces targeted zones of its Aegean #1 exploratory well on Keathley Canyon Block 163 in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico did not encounter commercial hydrocarbons and operations are underway to plug and abandon the wellbore (CIE) : Co announced that its Aegean #1 exploratory well on Keathley Canyon Block 163 in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico had reached objective total depth of 34,701 feet MD (33,751 feet TVD) after having drilled through the targeted Inboard Lower Tertiary formation. The targeted zones did not encounter commercial hydrocarbons and operations are underway to plug and abandon the wellbore. Cobalt, as operator, owns a 60 percent working interest in Aegean. TOTAL (TOT) E&P USA, INC. is Cobalt’s partner in Aegean, with a 40 percent working interest.

8:06 am Actuant misses by $ 0.02, beats on revs; guides Q2 EPS below consensus, revs in-line; guides FY14 EPS in-line, revs in-line (ATU) : Reports Q1 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.44 per share, $ 0.02 worse than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.46; revenues rose 10.3% year/year to $ 339.6 mln vs the $ 334.99 mln consensus.

  • Co issues downside EPS guidance for Q2, sees EPS of $ 0.29-0.33 vs. $ 0.38 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate; sees Q2 revs of $ 330-340 mln vs. $ 335.54 mln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate.
  • Co issues in-line guidance for FY14, sees EPS of $ 2.00-2.10 vs. $ 2.09 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate; sees FY14 revs of $ 1.41-1.45 bln vs. $ 1.42 bln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate.

8:06 am Cabot Oil & Gas announces agreement to provide natural gas to the Dominion Cove Point LNG Terminal (COG) : Co reported the execution of a definitive gas sale and purchase agreement with Pacific Summit Energy LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Corp, under which Cabot has agreed to sell 350,000 MMBtu per day of natural gas from its Marcellus Shale position for a term of 20 years commencing on the in-service date of the Dominion Cove Point LNG liquefaction project currently scheduled for 2017.

Production Highlights
Cabot recently achieved a new gross production record in the Marcellus of 1.5 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day. “This week marks the one-year anniversary of surpassing the one Bcf per day milestone in the Marcellus, highlighting a 50% year-over-year increase,” commented Dinges. “As such, we are increasing our 2013 production growth guidance range from 44-54% to 50-55%. 2014 production growth guidance for the Company remains unchanged at 30-50%.”

Constitution Pipeline
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (:FERC) recently issued its planned schedule for the completion of its environmental review of Constitution Pipeline. The FERC schedule established June 13, 2014 as the date of issuance of the final Environmental Impact Statement and September 11, 2014 as the 90-day federal authorization decision deadline for the project.

8:05 am Sanofi-Aventis’s Genzyme announces Lemtrada was approved in Australia for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (SNY) : Co announced that the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved Lemtrada (alemtuzumab) for the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis for patients with active disease defined by clinical or imaging features to slow the accumulation of physical disability and reduce the frequency of clinical relapses.

8:05 am Lions Gate Entertainment announces first quarterly cash dividend of $ 0.05 per common share (LGF) : The first dividend is payable on February 7, 2014 to shareholders of record at the close of business on December 31, 2013.

8:05 am NovaBay Pharma announces plan to reinitiate clinical evaluation of auriclosene for impetigo in 2014; impetigo clinical program moves forward with optimized formulation (NBY) : Co Co announced that it expects to reinitiate a Phase 2b clinical trial of auriclosene for impetigo in 2014. Knowledge gained from the two previous impetigo studies is expected to lead to the use of an optimized formulation of auriclosene for this upcoming clinical trial. NovaBay will be responsible for the planning and execution of the upcoming trial.

8:05 am Oxygen Biotherapeutics provides a business review and update in conjunction with filing of 2Q2014 financials; in 2014, co anticipates enrolling first patient in the Phase 3 trial for levosimendan in cardiac surgery patients at risk for developing LCOS in July 2014 (OXBT) : Co announced that it has filed its Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for its Q2 fiscal year (:FY) 2014 ended October 31, 2013. In connection with that filing, the co is providing a review of recent achievements and an update on business operations and future milestones. As reported on November the 14th, 2013, Oxygen completed its acquisition of certain assets of Phyxius Pharma Inc. (Phyxius Pharma), a privately-held biopharmaceutical company focused on the development and near-term commercialization of levosimendan to prevent and treat cardiac surgery patients at risk for developing low cardiac output syndrome (:LCOS), a significant unmet medical need.

This acquisition allowed Oxygen Biotherapeutics to acquire the exclusive rights to develop and commercialize levosimendan in North America. John Kelley, CEO and Co-Founder of Phyxius Pharma, joined Oxygen Biotherapeutics as the CEO, along with two other senior executives from Phyxius that also joined the senior management team. Levosimendan was discovered and developed by Orion Pharma, Orion Corporation of Espoo Finland. Levosimendan is a calcium sensitizer developed for intra-venous use in hospitalized patients with acutely decompensated heart failure.

It is currently approved in over 50 countries for this indication and not available in the United States. It is under development in North America for reduction in morbidity and mortality of cardiac surgery patients at risk of low cardiac output syndrome (:LCOS). The acquisition brings to Oxygen Biotherapeutics not only the exclusive rights in North America to develop and commercialize levosimendan for the specific indication of prevention and treatment of LCOS, but also the FDA’s approval of Fast Track status for a Phase 3 trial, and the FDA’s SPA which represents agreement with the Phase III clinical trial’s study protocol.

The FDA has provided guidance that a single successful trial will be sufficient to support approval of levosimendan in this indication.

8:04 am Hercules Tech Q4TD update: 8 announced or completed liquidity events; 4 portfolio companies currently in IPO registration (HTGC) :

  • Portfolio gains and record growth in Net Investment Income led to an increased dividend in every quarter of 2013. Hercules’ shares have generated total returns of approximately 60%+ YTD, when including dividend payments and stock appreciation through mid-December 2013. The Company’s market cap now exceeds $ 1.0 billion, and is expected to finish 2013 with a strong liquidity position of more than $ 300 million to pursue new investment as it enters into 2014. 
  • As of December 19, 2013, Hercules has originated approximately $ 121.3 million of debt and equity commitments to new and existing portfolio companies.

8:03 am GigOptix priced a public offering of an aggregate of ~8.325 mln shares of common stock at a price of $ 1.42/share (GIG) : Co announced the pricing of its underwritten public offering of an aggregate of 8,325,000 newly issued shares of common stock at a price of $ 1.42 per share. The co expects to receive gross proceeds of $ 11.8 million, before deducting underwriting discounts and other estimated offering expenses. The underwriters have also been granted a 30-day option to purchase up to 1,248,750 shares of common stock to cover over-allotments, if any. The net proceeds to the Company from the Offering are expected to be ~$ 11.0 million after deduction of underwriting discounts and assuming no exercise of the underwriters’ over-allotment option. The co expects to use the net proceeds from the offering for working capital and other general corporate purposes. The Company may also use a portion of the net proceeds for licensing or acquiring intellectual property or technologies to incorporate in its products, capital expenditures, to fund possible investments in and acquisitions of complementary businesses, partnerships, and minority investments. Roth Capital Partners is acting as sole book-running manager for the offering. Craig-Hallum Capital Group is acting as co-lead manager for the offering.

8:03 am SFX Entertainment agrees to acquire B2S; will pay $ 14.3 mln in cash and issue 400K shares of SFX common stock at closing (SFXE) : Co announced it has agreed to acquire B2S Holding. B2S, which specializes in hard electronic dance music, is an electronic music culture (EMC) event organizer, and its festival and live event brands include Decibel, Hard Bass, Thrillogy, Knock Out, and Loudness.

Co previously acquired 50 percent of B2S as part of its acquisition in October of ID&T, which has produced events such as Sensation, Mysteryland and Tomorrowland in Europe and around the world. Under the agreement, co will purchase the remaining 50 percent of B2S that was not already owned by the co and will pay $ 14.3 million in cash and issue 400,000 shares of co’s common stock at closing.

8:03 am Comstock Mining eliminates $ 2 mln of debt and future royalties (LODE) : Co announced a positive restructuring of four, patented mining lode claims totaling 95 acres in the Company’s overall Dayton Resource Area. These claims represent the Company’s second largest, classified gold and silver resources and include the historic Dayton, Alhambra and Kossuth mining claims. The restructured transaction eliminates $ 2 million of debt and cancels all future royalties payable with respect to the relevant mining claims in exchange for the issuance of one million shares of the Company’s common stock.

8:01 am Rite Aid and GNC (GNC) announce extension of partnership through 2019 (RAD) : Rite Aid (RAD) and GNC (GNC) announced an agreement which extends and expands their existing partnership through 2019. The agreement enables Rite Aid to add at least 300 additional GNC LiveWell store-within-a-store locations inside its stores over the next five years. Rite Aid and GNC have had an exclusive partnership in the chain drug channel since December 1998.

8:01 am Huron Consulting to acquire the assets of The Frankel Group Associates; financial terms not disclosed (HURN) : Co announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire the assets of The Frankel Group Associates LLC, a leading life sciences consulting firm. The acquisition will expand Huron’s strategy, operations, advanced analytics, and regulatory compliance offerings to life sciences clients and to the law firms and investment firms that serve these companies.

8:00 am Alnylam Pharma presents new pre-clinical data on pharmacology of GalNAc-siRNA Conjugates; new results demonstrate achievement of steady state liver drug levels during chronic dosing with no evidence for drug accumulation (ALNY) :

  • Co announced today that it has presented new pre-clinical data on the pharmacology of GalNAc-siRNA conjugates at the 12th US-Japan Symposium on Drug Delivery Systems held December 16 — 20, 2013 in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. In a presentation titled “Advances in Systemic Delivery of RNAi Therapeutics,” 
  • Alnylam scientists presented new data on tissue drug levels and sustained target knockdown achieved with long-term chronic dosing of GalNAc-siRNA conjugates. 
  • GalNAc-siRNA conjugates are a proprietary Alnylam delivery platform, and are designed to achieve targeted delivery of RNAi therapeutics to hepatocytes through uptake by the asialoglycoprotein receptor. This targeted delivery platform enables subcutaneous dose administration with a wide therapeutic index, and has demonstrated potent and durable gene silencing, as well as a favorable tolerability profile, in clinical and pre-clinical studies from multiple programs in the company’s “Alnylam 5×15” product pipeline. 
  • The new data demonstrate the pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic properties of GalNAc-siRNA conjugates following repeat dosing. Specifically, in mouse studies, weekly subcutaneous dosing of ALN-AT3, an RNAi therapeutic targeting antithrombin (AT), resulted in mean steady state liver drug levels of approximately 0.4 and 1.1 micrograms per gram at doses of 0.2 and 0.5 mg/kg, respectively. These drug levels were shown to correspond to roughly 60% and 75% knockdown of serum AT, and compare very favorably with other oligonucleotide platforms requiring greater than 100 micrograms of drug per gram of tissue for similar biologic effects; this corresponds to 100- to 1000-fold lower levels of required tissue exposure for GalNAc-siRNA conjugates, which could underscore the potential for a more favorable tolerability profile. 
  • Further, no evidence of drug accumulation in liver tissue during chronic dosing was observed after the third weekly dose. In addition, data from a long-term pharmacology study were presented with a GalNAc-siRNA conjugate targeting the transthyretin (:TTR) mRNA in mice. Weekly dosing at 1.0 and 2.5 mg/kg led to steady TTR knockdown of 50% and 80%, respectively, which was sustained for the entire 196-day time period analyzed. The TTR knockdown effect was found to be highly consistent with very low levels of inter-animal variation. Finally, the steady level of knockdown was achieved with no evidence of tachyphylaxis or sensitization. 

7:59 am S&P futures vs fair value: -1.70. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -5.50. (:WRAPX) : U.S. equity futures hold modest losses amid light profit taking following yesterday’s surge that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 to new record closing highs. The S&P 500 futures hover less than two points below fair value.

Reviewing overnight developments:

  • Asian markets ended mixed. Japan’s Nikkei +1.7%, China’s Shanghai Composite -1.0%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng -1.1%. 
    • Regional economic data was limited: 
      • Japan’s foreign bonds buying report indicated net purchases in the amount of JPY110.50 billion (JPY390.10 billion prior). Separately, the All Industries Activity Index ticked down 0.2% month-over-month (-0.2% expected, 0.5% last). 
      • New Zealand’s GDP rose 1.4% quarter-over-quarter (1.1% consensus, 0.3% previous). 
    • In news: 
      • Markets in China underperformed as the recent liquidity crunch intensified once again. The two-week Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate jumped almost 114 basis points to 6.218%.
  • Major European indices hold solid gains across the board. Great Britain’s FTSE +1.1%, France’s CAC +1.2%, and Germany’s DAX +1.4%. Elsewhere, Italy’s MIB +1.4% and Spain’s IBEX +1.6%. 
    • Investors received several economic data points: 
      • Eurozone current account surplus expanded to EUR21.80 billion from EUR14.90 billion (EUR14.20 billion expected). 
      • Great Britain’s retail sales ticked up 0.3% month-over-month (0.3% expected, -0.9% prior) while the year-over-year reading increased 2.0% (2.3% forecast, 1.8% last). Core retail sales increased 0.4% month-over-month (0.3% consensus, -0.7% prior) while the year-over-year reading pointed to an increase of 2.3% (2.5% forecast, 2.3% last). 
      • Italy’s wages were unchanged month-over-month (0.2% prior). 
      • Spain’s industrial new orders fell 4.0% year-over-year (1.1% expected, -0.3% prior). 
    • Among news of note: 
      • Fitch affirmed the United Kingdom’s sovereign rating at ‘AA+’ with a Stable outlook. 
      • Reports indicate Eurozone finance ministers have reached an agreement on a single resolution mechanism to be used in winding down troubled banks. 

In U.S. corporate news:

  • Accenture (ACN 78.00, +2.38): +3.2% following its earnings beat on above-consensus revenue. 
  • Darden Restaurants (DRI 53.52, +0.60): +1.1% after reporting in-line results. Also of note, the company announced plans to enhance shareholder value, which include a spinoff of Red Lobster. 
  • Facebook (FB 53.30, -2.27): -4.1% after commencing a public offering of 70 million shares of its common stock. Of the 70 million shares, 41.35 million shares are being sold by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 
  • Oracle (ORCL 35.19, +0.59): +1.7% after beating on earnings and revenue. 

Weekly initial claims will be reported at 8:30 ET while Existing Home Sales for November will cross the wires at 10:00 ET. In addition, November Leading Indicators and the December Philadelphia Fed Survey will also be released at 10:00 ET.

7:57 am Lannett establishes a new, five-year $ 50 mln revolving credit facility (LCI) :

  • Co announced that it has established a new, five-year $ 50 million revolving credit facility with a syndicate of two lenders, Citibank, N.A., as administrative agent, and PNC Bank, National Association. 
  • Co expects to use the credit facility for general corporate purposes, including acquisitions. The facility is secured by substantially all of the co’s assets.

7:56 am Melco Crown Entertainment: Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts announces pricing of senior notes offering of MCE Leisure (Philippines); offering consists of PHP 15 bln aggregate principal amount of 5.00% senior notes due 2019 (MPEL) : Melco Crown (Philippines) Resorts, a subsidiary of Melco Crown Entertainment, announced that its wholly-owned indirect subsidiary, MCE Leisure (Philippines) priced its senior notes which were offered to limited investors via private placement within the Philippines. The Notes offering consists of PHP 15 bln (equivalent to ~ $ 340 mln as of the date of this release) aggregate principal amount of 5.00% senior notes due 2019. The Notes were priced at 100% of par and MCE Leisure Philippines intends to use the net proceeds from the offering for capital expenditure, refinancing of debt and general corporate purpose.

7:53 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • Foster Wheeler AG (FWLT) announced that a subsidiary of its Global Power Group has been awarded a contract by North West Redwater Partnership for the design and supply of three model AG-5325 package steam generating systems located at NWR’s Sturgeon Refinery, Sturgeon County, Alberta. 
  • Technologies & Bioressources (NEPT) and Acasti Pharma (ACST) announced the appointment of Jerald J. Wenker as a special advisor to their Board of Directors. Mr. Wenker has also accepted the nomination for election to serve on the cos’ Board of Directors at the next Annual Meeting to be held in 2014, subject to shareholder approval, including increasing the maximum number of Board of Directors to at least 7 members from 6 currently.

7:46 am First Niagara appoints Gary M. Crosby as President and CEO, effective immediately (FNFG) : Co announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Gary M. Crosby as President and Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately. He also joins the company’s Board. Mr. Crosby has served as First Niagara’s interim President and CEO since March 2013.

7:42 am Carlyle and Vitol Group to invest in Varo Energy to create a major new energy midstream group across North-West Europe (CG) :

  • Co and the Vitol Group of Companies announced a transaction intended to establish Varo Energy B.V. as a major midstream energy business in north-west Europe. Under the terms of the proposed transaction, Vitol and Carlyle International Energy Partners (:CIEP) will each own 50% of an enlarged Varo Energy Group. AtlasInvest will sell its shareholding in Varo Energy to CIEP while Vitol will reduce its current stake to enable each party to own 50%. I
  • n conjunction with CIEP’s investment into Varo Energy, Varo Energy will acquire from Vitol all shares in PT Holdings GmbH, the holding company for Petrotank Neutrale Tanklager GmbH and all shares in Vitol Germany GmbH. Furthermore, Varo Energy will also acquire, by means of a separate transaction, all shares currently held by OMV Deutschland GmbH in Bayernoil Raffineriegesellschaft mbH, as well as certain downstream assets owned by OMV Deutschland GmbH. On completion of these transactions, the Varo Energy business will comprise three core areas; refining wholesale distribution and storage, with a combined refining capacity of 160k bbl/d, sales of 10MM m3 per year and 1.7 MM m3 of storage capacity.

7:36 am ConAgra beats by $ 0.06, beats on revs; reaffirms FY14 EPS guidance (CAG) : Reports Q2 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.62 per share, excluding non-recurring items, $ 0.06 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.56; revenues rose 26.5% year/year to $ 4.71 bln vs the $ 4.66 bln consensus.

Co reaffirms guidance for FY14, sees EPS of $ 2.34-2.38, excluding non-recurring items, vs. $ 2.32 Capital IQ Consensus. 

This takes into account the stronger-than-planned fiscal second quarter EPS contribution, as well as caution about the overall business environment, the impact of the quality issues in this year’s potato crop at Lamb Weston, and the gradual nature of the executional improvements underway in the Private Brands segment.

The co’s long-term EPS growth rates, and multi-year synergy goals related to the Ralcorp acquisition, are unchanged from prior estimates. The co expects at least 10% annual comparable EPS growth in the fiscal 2015-2017 period, and expects the Ralcorp transaction to generate $ 300 million of annual pretax cost-related synergies by the end of fiscal 2017.

The co implemented organizational changes during the quarter that resulted in new reporting segments.

Consumer Foods posted flat sales and a double-digit rate of growth in comparable operating profit.

Commercial Foods posted an increase in sales and a decrease in operating profit, as planned. The decrease in profit was expected due to previously disclosed customer transition issues in our Lamb Weston potato products business.

The Private Brands segment includes most of the former Ralcorp businesses as well as the private label business previously reported within the Consumer Foods segment.

7:33 am Chico’s FAS repurchases $ 125 mln of shares in Q4 and approves new $ 300 mln share repurchase authorization (CHS) : The co also announced that its Board of Directors has cancelled the remainder of its March 2013 share repurchase program and approved a new $ 300 million share repurchase authorization for the Company’s common stock, reinforcing the Company’s commitment to returning excess cash to shareholders.

The new repurchase authorization follows the Company’s recent announcement to increase its quarterly dividend per share by 36%, equating to an annualized increase of $ 0.08 per share.

7:32 am AcelRx secures $ 40 mln credit facility with Hercules Technology Growth Capital (HTGC) (ACRX) :

  • Co announced that it has entered into a new amended and restated credit facility with Hercules Technology Growth Capital (HTGC) that extends AcelRx’s current relationship with Hercules, which was established in June 2011. The new Hercules credit facility provides for up to $ 40 mln of new loans.
  • General terms of the loan agreement include interest-only payments for 15 months until April 1, 2015, with the possibility of extending the interest-only period to two years until January 1, 2016, if the FDA approves Zalviso on or prior to April 1, 2015. Following the interest-only period, AcelRx will repay the loans in equal monthly payments of principal and interest through the scheduled maturity date on October 1, 2017 (which would be extended until January 1, 2018 if the Company obtains FDA approval of Zalviso on or prior to April 1, 2015).

7:31 am Coca-Cola Ent affirms FY13 comparable EPS at high end of a range of $ 2.45-2.50 vs $ 2.50 Capital IQ Consensus Est, which incl a currency benefit of ~2% at recent rates. Net sales are expected to grow in a low single-digit range; Board authorizes new $ 1 bln share repurchase program (CCE) : Co affirmed diluted EPS guidance for full-year 2013 at the high end of the previously stated range of $ 2.45-2.50, including a positive 2% currency impact at recent rates. Including this currency impact, CCE continues to expect comparable full-year net sales and operating income to grow in a low single-digit range versus prior year.

The co expects 2013 free cash flow of ~$ 500 mln after including a year-over-year increase in cash restructuring expenses in a range of $ 100 mln to $ 125 mln. Capital expenditures are expected to be in a range of $ 300 mln to $ 325 mln. Weighted average cost of debt is expected to be ~3% and the comparable effective tax rate for 2013 is expected to be in a range of 26-27%.

For 2014, CCE expects earnings per diluted share to grow ~10% on a comparable and currency neutral basis. Although too early to predict the impact, based on recent rates, currency translation would benefit full-year 2014 earnings per share in a range of 3-4%.

Net sales are expected to grow in a low single-digit range and operating income is expected to grow in a mid-single-digit range. This outlook is comparable and currency neutral. The company also expects 2014 free cash flow in a range of $ 600-650 mln. Capital expenditures are expected to be ~$ 350 mln. 

7:31 am Rare Element’s 2013 drill program further expands bear lodge rare earth resource; 80% growth in whitetail ridge resource drives 10% growth in project-wide measured and indicated resource (REE) :

  • Co announced that drilling completed during 2013 resulted in the contained total rare earth oxide at the Whitetail Ridge deposit increasing by nearly 80 percent, resulting in the project-wide TREO increasing by 10 percent. The Indicated resource at Whitetail, which carries higher concentrations of heavy rare earths (:HRE), rose to 4.2 million tons (3.8 million tonnes) at an average grade of 2.49 percent TREO, using a 1.5 percent TREO cutoff grade, representing 209 million pounds (95 million kilograms) of contained TREO. 
  • The project-wide M&I resource increased to 16.8 million tons (15.2 million tonnes) at an average grade of 3.11 percent TREO, using a 1.5 percent cutoff grade, representing 1,043 million pounds (473 million kilograms) of contained TREO. Drilling confirmed the HRE enrichment at Whitetail, with elevated Europium (Eu), Terbium (Tb), Dysprosium (Dy) and Yttrium (Y). The total HRE (Eu-Lu + Y) grade at Whitetail is almost twice that of the Bull Hill deposit, or 0.189 percent versus 0.101 percent, respectively. The expanded Whitetail resource will be incorporated into the Project’s overall mine plan as part of the Feasibility Study.
  • Resources were estimated for the Whitetail deposit using inverse-distance-weighting with grade zones to differentiate between high-grade and stockwork mineralization. High-grade mineralization was defined as a minimum 20 feet (6.1m) true width above 1.5%. Slightly different cutoff grades and minimum widths were used in other areas. 

7:30 am Vertex Pharm announces results of Phase 3 Study of Ivacaftor in people with CF who have the R117H Mutation; study did not meet its primary endpoint (VRTX) :

  • Co announced data from a Phase 3 study of ivacaftor in 69 people 6 years of age and older with cystic fibrosis (CF) who have the R117H mutation. In the study, the mean absolute treatment difference in the change from baseline in percent predicted FEV1 between treatment with ivacaftor and placebo was 2.1 percentage points (p=0.20) and the mean relative treatment difference in percent predicted FEV1 was 5.0 percent through the 24-week treatment period among all patients (intent-to-treat analysis). 
  • The study did not meet its primary endpoint of the absolute change from baseline in FEV1 (percent predicted forced expiratory volume in one second, FEV1) throughout the treatment period for ivacaftor compared to placebo across all patients. A pre-specified subset analysis in patients 18 years of age and older (n=50) showed statistically significant improvements in lung function and other key secondary endpoints. 
  • In these patients, the mean absolute treatment difference in percent predicted FEV1 between treatment with ivacaftor and placebo was 5.0 percentage points (p=0.01) and the mean relative treatment difference in percent predicted FEV1 was 9.1 percent (p=0.008) through the 24-week treatment period. Vertex believes that the results show a clinical benefit for patients age 18 and older with the R117H mutation. 
  • The company plans to meet with the FDA in early 2014 to discuss these data and the potential submission of a supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) for people with the R117H mutation.
  • The safety and tolerability results observed in this study were consistent with those observed in prior Phase 3 studies of ivacaftor monotherapy in people with CF who have the G551D or other gating mutations. The most commonly observed adverse events in those who received ivacaftor were infective pulmonary exacerbation, cough and headache, which occurred with similar frequency compared to those who received placebo. Serious adverse events occurred in 17 percent of patients who received placebo versus 12 percent for patients who received ivacaftor. 

7:28 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • NewLink Genetics (NLNK) launched a first in human Phase 1 clinical trial of HyperAcute Renal immunotherapy in patients with metastatic renal cell cancer. HyperAcute Renal Immunotherapy is comprised of two allogeneic renal cell cancer cell lines engineered to express the murine alpha(1,3)GT gene.
  • eHealth (EHTH) has made over 2,300 health insurance plans available for online enrollment through eHealthInsurance.com, and has also released numerous streamlined improvements to its online shopping experience.
  • Athersys (ATHX) announced that Pfizer (PFE) has completed patient enrollment of a Phase II clinical study involving administration of Athersys’ MultiStem cell therapy to ulcerative colitis patients as part of a 2009 collaboration agreement between Athersys and Pfizer. Co expects initial results from the study to be disclosed in 2Q2014.
  • Kratos Defense & Security Solutions (KTOS) announced that its Electronic Products Division has recently received ~ $ 4.5 mln in certain National Security Program related product awards.
  • CAE (CAE) has signed contracts for five full-flight simulators , a series of flight training devices and update services. The contracts are worth more than CAD90 mlnn at list prices, and bring the total number of FFS sales announced to date for fiscal year 2014 to 38.
  • Molycorp (MCP) announced that the final unit of its multi-stage Cracking Plant at Mountain Pass has now completed commissioning and is operational.
  • Daimler AG (DDAIF) and Aston Martin Lagonda signed an agreement for a significant technical partnership between Daimler, Mercedes-AMG GmbH, a 100% subsidiary of German automotive corporation Daimler AG, and Aston Martin.
  • ARRIS Group (ARRS) announced that MTS has successfully installed and engaged ARRIS advertising insertion solution in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  • Gilat Satellite Networks (GILT) has been awarded a project valued at $ 30 mln as part of the Integracion Amazonica Loreto initiative. The contract for the project is expected to be signed shortly.
  • Cleco Power, Cleco’s (CNL) regulated utility subsidiary, successfully integrated into the Midcontinent Independent System Operator market.

7:20 am Trina Solar has been chosen as the sole supplier of 25 MW of modules to Phase III of the 75 MW Bangchak Solar Energy Project in Thailand (TSL) : The project is owned by Bangchak Solar Energy (Nakhonratchasima) and Bangchak Solar Energy (Chaiyaphum 1), the subsidiaries of Bangchak Solar Energy and will be constructed by Gunkul Engineering Public. Trina Solar is expected to commence shipment in late December.

7:19 am Scholastic Corp misses on the top and bottom line; reaffirms FY14 EPS guidance, revs guidance (SCHL) : Reports Q2 (Nov) earnings of $ 2.15 per share excluding items (see below), $ 0.05 worse than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 2.20; revenues rose 1.6% year/year to $ 623.2 mln vs the $ 638.1 mln consensus.

  • The Company reported second quarter earnings per diluted share from continuing operations of $ 1.80, versus $ 1.91 in the prior year period. Results for the second quarter of the current fiscal year include one-time expenses of $ 0.35 per diluted share, which include an impairment charge of $ 13.4 million, related to goodwill from legacy acquisitions previously made in the Children’s Book Publishing and Distribution segment, and $ 5.5 million of one-time expenses related to cost reduction and restructuring programs. Consolidated earnings per diluted share was $ 1.80 in the quarter, compared to earnings of $ 1.89 a year ago. 
  • Children’s Book Publishing and Distribution: Segment revenue in the second quarter was $ 352.1 million, compared to $ 347.4 million in the prior year period. In Trade, sales of core backlist titles including The Hunger Games and Harry Potter and the recently released multi-platform SPIRIT ANIMALS drove a 3% increase in revenues.
  • Co reaffirms guidance for FY14, sees EPS of $ 1.40-1.80 vs. $ 1.67 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate; sees FY14 revs of ~$ 1.8 bln vs. $ 1.83 bln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate.

7:09 am FX Energy announces Szymanowice-1 well in Poland tested gas during a drill stem test in a 28 meter section of the Rotliegend sandstone target reservoir (FXEN) :

  • Co reported that the Lisewo gas facility in Poland is now producing gas. Gas produced at the Lisewo-1 well is the first to be processed from the new facility. The Lisewo-1 well initial rate is approximately 5 million cubic feet per day gross. 
  • The new facility will also service two other discoveries, the Komorze-3 well discovered last year, and the Lisewo-2 well which was successfully completed for production last week. Lisewo-2 is currently undergoing a production test. Komorze-3 is expected to start production in the first quarter of 2014; Lisewo-2 is expected to be producing in the second half of 2014. All three of these wells are located in the Fences concession where the Polish Oil and Gas Company (PGNiG) is the operator and owns 51% of the working interest; FX Energy owns 49%.

7:08 am Energy Fuels enters into a Securities Purchase Agreement to sell all of its shares of Bayswater Uranium to Mega Uranium in exchange for 1.75 mln newly issued common shares of Mega (UUUU) :

  • Co announced that it has entered into a Securities Purchase Agreement to sell all of its shares of Bayswater Uranium to Mega Uranium in exchange for 1,750,000 newly issued common shares of Mega. 
  • Energy Fuels acquired 2,759,807 shares of Bayswater as part of its August 30, 2013 acquisition of Strathmore Minerals. The 2,759,807 shares represent ~ 11.5% of the issued and outstanding shares of Bayswater. 
  • The transaction is expected to be completed on or before January 17, 2014, or such other date as the parties may agree, and is subject to various conditions including acceptance by the Toronto Stock Exchange. The shares of Mega being acquired by Energy Fuels will be issued on a private placement basis and are subject to a statutory four-month holding period.

7:08 am Accenture beats by $ 0.05, beats on revs; guides Q2 revs below consensus; raises FY14 EPS slightly, in-line, reaffirms FY14 constant FX rev (ACN) : Reports Q1 (Nov) earnings of $ 1.15 per share, $ 0.05 better than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 1.10; revenues rose 1.9% year/year to $ 7.36 bln vs the $ 7.25 bln consensus.

Consulting net revenues for the quarter were $ 3.94 billion, a decrease of 1% in U.S. dollars and flat in local currency compared with the first quarter of fiscal 2013. Outsourcing net revenues were $ 3.42 billion, an increase of 5% in U.S. dollars and 6% in local currency over the first quarter of fiscal 2013. New bookings for the first quarter were $ 8.7 billion and reflect a negative 2% foreign-currency impact compared with new bookings in the first quarter last year. Consulting new bookings were $ 4.3 billion, or 49% of total new bookings. Outsourcing new bookings were $ 4.4 billion, or 51% of total new bookings.

Co issues downside guidance for Q2, sees Q2 revs of $ 6.95-7.25 bln vs. $ 7.28 bln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate.

Co issues in-line guidance for FY14, raises EPS to $ 4.44-4.56 from $ 4.42-4.54 vs. $ 4.49 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate; sees FY14 revs +1.5-5.5% (including 50 bps FX headwind, down from 100 bps) to ~$ 28.99-30.13 bln vs. $ 29.62 bln Capital IQ Consensus. 

During Q1, Accenture repurchased or redeemed 9.7 million shares for a total of $ 722 million, including ~8.0 million shares repurchased in the open market.

7:05 am Can-Fite BioPharma granted U.S. patent for utilization of A3 adenosine receptor as biomarker to predict patient response to CF101 in autoimmune inflammatory indications (CANF) : Co announced that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted the Company a patent which bears the Patent No. 8,541,182 and is titled “A Biological Marker for Inflammation”. The patent was granted on September 24, 2013 and will be valid until 2026, protecting Can-Fite’s findings relating to the utilization of the A3 Adenosine Receptor as a biomarker to predict patients’ response to CF101 in autoimmune inflammatory indications.

7:05 am Bioanalytical Sys. reschedules Q4 and FY2014 earnings release to Dec 24, 2013; conference call and webcast set for 11:00 am EST (BASI) :  

7:04 am Apco Oil and Gas Intl announces Ralph A. Hill will step down as chairman, board member and CEO effective Dec. 31, 2013 (APAGF) :

  • Co announced that Ralph A. Hill will step down as chairman, board member and chief executive officer effective Dec. 31, 2013. The move coincides with Hill’s departure from WPX Energy (WPX), where he also served as the CEO. WPX owns a 69% controlling ownership interest in Apco. 
  • Co’s board has named James J. Bender as chairman and board member, effective Dec. 31, 2013. Bender served as the general counsel for both WPX and Williams (WMB). Bender will serve as the interim CEO at WPX effective Dec. 31, 2013, as well. 
  • Additionally, co’s board has named Bryan K. Guderian as chief executive officer, also effective Dec. 31, 2013. Guderian has been on Apco’s board since 2002 and currently serves as the senior vice president of operations for WPX, where he has responsibility for the cos international interests. Guderian will remain on the Apco board. 
  • Michael Kyle will continue to serve as Apco’s president and chief operating officer, along with the remainder of the existing management team.

7:03 am Acorda Therapeutics announces European Patent Office upholds fampridine (:FAMPYRA) patent (ACOR) :

  • Co announced that the European Patent Office Opposition Division has upheld amended claims covering a sustained release formulation of fampridine (:FAMPYRA), also known as dalfampridine or 4-aminopyridine, for increasing walking speed in patients with MS through twice daily dosing at 10 mg. The decision of the Opposition Division is open to appeal.
  • This European patent (EP-1 732 548 B) is set to expire in 2025, absent any additional exclusivity granted based on regulatory review timelines. In addition, FAMPYRA received 10-year market exclusivity upon approval by the European Commission that is set to expire in 2021.

7:02 am MEDNAX announces acquisition of neonatology practice in Virginia; expected to be immediately accretive to earnings (MD) : Co announced the acquisition of Neonatology Center of Winchester, P.C., a neonatal physician group practice based in Winchester, Va. The practice will become part of MEDNAX’s Pediatrix Medical Group division. The practice was acquired for cash and the transaction is expected to be immediately accretive to earnings. No additional terms of the transaction were disclosed.

7:01 am Darden Restaurants approves comprehensive plan to enhance shareholder value; plan includes separating the co’s Red Lobster business, reducing new unit growth, suspending acquisitions, increasing operating support cost savings, and refining senior mgmt compensation and incentive programs (DRI) : Co announced that its Board of Directors has approved a comprehensive plan to enhance shareholder value, address changing industry dynamics in the casual dining sector and leverage the benefits of the co’s position as the premier casual dining restaurant co. The elements of this comprehensive plan include the following:

  • Separate the co’s Red Lobster business: Although no final decision has been made on the form of the separation, the co expects to execute a tax-free spin-off of Red Lobster to its shareholders, but may also consider a sale of the Red Lobster business. 
  • Reduce unit growth, lower capital expenditures and forgo acquisitions: The reduction in new unit expansion will come primarily from suspending new unit growth at Olive Garden and more limited new unit growth at LongHorn Steakhouse, with new unit growth at the Specialty Restaurant Group continuing at a pace modestly below this year’s level. The reduced unit growth will lower capital spending by at least $ 100 mln annually. In addition, the co has determined to forgo acquisitions of additional brands for the foreseeable future. 
  • Increase cost savings: Through aggressive operating support cost management, the co now expects the cost reduction efforts announced in Sep to result in savings of at least $ 60 mln annually beginning in its fiscal year 2015, which starts May 26, 2014. This represents a $ 10 mln increase over the $ 50 mln previously projected. The co will continue to focus on enhanced cost efficiencies as it moves through the separation process. 
  • Increase return of capital to shareholders: The increased cash flow from reductions in capital spending and operating support expenses will be redirected to support dividends, share repurchase and strengthening of the co’s credit profile. Consistent with its long-standing commitment to return capital to shareholders, Darden has returned over $ 1.3 bln to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends over the past three years. The co expects to announce additional details on its share repurchase program as the separation plans are finalized. It is the co’s intention that, on a combined basis, Darden and Red Lobster will maintain Darden’s current quarterly dividend of $ 0.55 per share following the separation. 
  • Refine compensation and incentive programs: To ensure strong alignment behind the co’s strategic direction, the co’s Board of Directors intends to refine compensation and incentive programs for senior management to more directly emphasize same-restaurant sales growth and free cash flow.

7:00 am Waddell & Reed increases quarterly dividend by 21% to $ 0.34 per share from $ 0.28 per share (WDR) :  

6:39 am S&P futures vs fair value: flat. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -2.00. :

6:39 am European Markets : FTSE…6557.47…+65.20+1.00%.  DAX…9315.56…+133.70+1.50%.

6:39 am Asian Markets : Nikkei…15852.22…+271.40+1.70%.  Hang Seng…22888.75…-255.10-1.10%.

6:24 am Pier 1 Imports misses by $ 0.02, reports revs in-line; guides Q4 EPS in-line; Q3 comps +6.9% (PIR) : Reports Q3 (Nov) earnings of $ 0.26 per share, $ 0.02 worse than the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate of $ 0.28; revenues rose 9.7% year/year to $ 465.5 mln vs the $ 462.86 mln consensus.

  • Co issues guidance for Q4, sees EPS of $ 0.60-0.66 vs. $ 0.62 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate; sees Q4 revs of high single digit growth (cons +3.0%) vs. $ 569.08 mln Capital IQ Consensus Estimate. 
  • Q3 Comparable store sales increased 6.9% compared to last year’s comparable store sales gain of 7.9%. Comparable store sales results for the period were primarily attributable to increases in conversion rate and higher average ticket. 
  • As a percentage of sales, gross profit was 43.4% compared to 43.9% in the third quarter of fiscal 2013 and primarily reflects a slightly increased promotional cadence versus a year ago. 
  • Third quarter EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) increased 13.3% to $ 53.4 million, versus $ 47.2 million in the same period last year. Depreciation and amortization was $ 9.9 million, compared to $ 8.2 million in the third quarter of last year.
  • Co increased quarterly dividend to $ 0.06 from $ 0.05

6:22 am Facebook commences public offering of 70 mln shares of its Class A common stock; total of 27,004,761 shares are being offered by co, and a total of 42,995,239 shares are being offered by certain selling stockholders, including 41.35 mln shares offered by Mark Zuckerberg (FB) :

  • Co announced that it is commencing an underwritten registered public offering of 70 mln shares of its Class A common stock. A total of 27,004,761 shares are being offered by Facebook, and a total of 42,995,239 shares are being offered by certain selling stockholders, including 41,350,000 shares offered by Mark Zuckerberg. 
  • Co intends to use the net proceeds of the offering for working capital and other general corporate purposes. Co will not receive any proceeds from the sale of shares by the selling stockholders. Co expects that the majority of the net proceeds Mr. Zuckerberg will receive upon the sale of shares in the offering will be used to satisfy taxes that he will incur in connection with his exercise, in full, of an outstanding stock option to purchase 60 mln shares of Class B common stock. 
  • J.P. Morgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Barclays are serving as joint bookrunners for the offering. BNP Paribas, Citigroup, RBC Capital Markets, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Piper Jaffray are serving as co-managers for the offering.

6:21 am Bayer AG plans to acquire Norwegian pharmaceutical co Algeta for NOK 362 per share in cash; implies equity value of NOK 17.6 bln (EUR 2.1 bln) (BAYRY) :

  • The Bayer Group plans to acquire Norwegian pharma co Algeta ASA, Oslo. “We have already successfully collaborated with Algeta to develop and commercialize the cancer drug Xofigo. The planned acquisition would give us full control over Xofigo. We are absolutely convinced of the potential of this drug and the underlying technology to provide patients with innovative treatment options.” 
  • Co has reached an agreement with Algeta’s Board of Directors to make a recommended voluntary public takeover offer to Algeta’s shareholders, and is offering them NOK 362 per share in cash. The offer implies an equity value of NOK 17.6 bln (EUR 2.1 bln) and an enterprise value of NOK 16.2 bln (EUR 1.9 bln). The offer price represents a premium of 37 % over the closing price on Nov 25, 2013, the day before Algeta confirmed that it had received a preliminary, non-binding acquisition proposal from Bayer, or a premium of 48 % over the unaffected three-month volume-weighted average share price on Nov 25, 2013. 
  • The Board of Directors of Algeta has unanimously decided to recommend acceptance of the offer to its shareholders. In addition, Bayer has obtained pre-acceptances for ~ 14 % of the shares in Algeta, including pre-acceptances from all members of Algeta’s Board of Directors as well as from Algeta’s largest shareholder, HealthCap IV. 
  • The successful completion of the transaction is subject to certain conditions, including a minimum acceptance level of 90% of the share capital and approval by the relevant antitrust authorities. Bayer expects to close the transaction during 1Q2014.

6:03 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • Global Cash Access, a wholly owned subsidiary of Global Cash Access Holdings (GCA) announced that it has signed agreements with one of its top customers, MGM Resorts International (MGM), to continue providing its core cash access services, and to begin offering GCA’s full suite of ticket redemption kiosks and services to MGM Resorts properties. 
  • CTC Media (CTCM) has signed an agreement with KupiVIP.ru, Russia’s largest online retailer, regarding the joint creation of a new brand of women’s clothing. This project, the first e-commerce project by a television holding in Russia, launches in April 2014. 
  • Mazor Robotics (MZOR) announced that it has received its first order for a Renaissance system from Cordamed Biomedical Engineering, its distribution partner in Turkey. This represents the first Renaissance system order in Turkey, and Cordamed will install the system at a prominent hospital in Istanbul. 
  • FireEye (FEYE) announced that FireEye Labs discovered more zero-day advanced attacks than any security company in 2013.  
  • YuMe (YUME) and Toshiba Europe GmbH (TOSBF), a subsidiary of Toshiba announce that YuMe will be the first to deploy advertising on Toshiba’s latest smart TV portal, Cloud TV. 
  • Allot Communications (ALLT) announced that an EMEA-based Mobile Virtual Network Operator has selected the Allot video solution to optimize its video and Web traffic, reduce operating costs and provide in-depth analysis of traffic and usage patterns. 
  • Simcere Pharmaceutical Group (SCR) announced shareholders’ approval of its merger agreement.

6:02 am Synergy Resources expands its drilling operations in Wattenberg Field; contracts for an automated drilling rig for 2014 (SYRG) :

  • Co announced that it has amended its Turnkey Drilling Contract with Ensign United States Drilling (Ensign) to utilize Ensign Rig #131, an Automated Drilling Rig (:ADR), for all of calendar 2014. 
  • “We expect rig #131 will move to our Union pad during the week of December 23rd and spud the first of 6 wells planned on the Union pad on January 4th, 2014. We will continue to utilize Ensign Rig #17 to drill the remaining wells on our Phelps pad and then rig #17 will move to our Eberle pad to drill another 6 wells. We anticipate that drilling on the Eberle pad will finish near the end of May and we will then assess whether to keep both rigs running for the remainder of our fiscal year which ends August 31st, 2014.”

6:01 am AsiaInfo announces stockholders’ approval of merger agreement (ASIA) :

  • Co announced that, at a special meeting of the stockholders of the Company held today, the Company’s stockholders voted in favor of the proposal to adopt the previously announced Agreement and Plan of Merger, dated May 12, 2013, by and among the Company, Skipper Limited and Skipper Acquisition Corporation, pursuant to which Merger Sub will be merged with and into the Company, with the Company continuing as the surviving company after the merger as a wholly owned subsidiary of Parent. 
  • The Merger Agreement was approved by approximately 52.75% of the outstanding shares of Company common stock, satisfying the requirement in the Merger Agreement that at least a majority of the outstanding shares of Company common stock approve the Merger Agreement.

6:01 am Orion Marine announced a contract award of ~$ 18 mln (ORN) : Orion Marine Group was recently awarded a contract to demolish and reconstruct a cargo dock for the Port of Lake Charles in Louisiana. Demolition of the existing cargo shed and dock structure will begin in the second quarter of 2014 with the overall project lasting approximately 18 months.

5:12 am Jiayuan.com approves 12-month extension to its share repurchase program, set to expire Dec 20, 2014 (DATE) :  

5:09 am ReneSola to provide 364.7 KW in modules and inverters to Vista Solar (SOL) : Co announces collaborative projects with Silicon Valley-based solar integrator Vista Solar.

A 315 kW array is being constructed for Therm-X, a thermal solutions company based in California, and will be powered by ReneSola’s 305W polycrystalline panels. Two additional systems totaling nearly 50 kW have been constructed for Our Lady of Peace Church and Saint Justin School. Both sites will host solar systems featuring ReneSola’s 255W polycrystalline and 255W monocrystalline modules.

In addition, Vista Solar is testing ReneSola’s microinverters and string inverters on a demo rooftop project with DCL, a Silicon Valley-based technology manufacturing, fulfillment, and logistics services provider.

4:49 am MDU Resources raises its FY13 EPS guidance, above consensus (MDU) : Co issues upside guidance for FY13 (Dec), sees EPS of $ 1.45-1.50 vs. $ 1.42 Capital IQ Consensus Estimate, above its prior guidance of $ 1.35-1.45

4:44 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • AIRE Radio Networks, a division of Spanish Broadcasting System (SBSA), announced that Conexion Thalia Radio Show, the popular lifestyle and music program hosted by international superstar and platinum recording artist Thalia, will join the AIRE Radio Networks platform. 
  • Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) announced the opening of its Xi’an Office, with Chiao Sheng appointed as the Managing Director. This new office marks the Firm’s 11th in Mainland China and 14th in Greater China. 
  • Nordson (NDSN) announces that its Advanced Technology Systems operation in Taiwan has moved to a new facility that doubles its footprint and will encompass enhanced engineering, applications, sales, service, and support for its electronics manufacturing customers. 
  • Middleby (MIDD) announced the acquisition of Automatic Bar Controls, a manufacturer of beverage dispensing systems for the foodservice industry. The equipment solutions of Wunder-Bar include products used by leading restaurant chains, convenience stores, and foodservice operations for the dispensing of carbonated and non-carbonated soft drinks, iced tea and other beverages. Located in Vacaville, California, Wunder-Bar has annual revenues of ~$ 30 million.

4:31 am On The Wires (:WIRES) :

  • Sanofi (SNY) and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN) announced an innovative collaboration with the American College of Cardiology focused on enhancing clinical research with alirocumab, an investigational monoclonal antibody targeting PCSK9. PCSK9 is known to contribute to circulating low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. Alirocumab is being co-developed by Sanofi and Regeneron. 
  • BancorpSouth (BXS) announced that BancorpSouth Insurance Services, a subsidiary of BancorpSouth Bank, headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the assets of Houston, Texas based GEM Insurance Agencies. The transaction is expected to close before year end. Financial terms of the pending transaction were not disclosed. 
  • DTS Inc (DTSI) announced a collaboration with premium Chinese smartphone brand, vivo, to bring to market the first smartphones featuring DTS Headphone:X 
  • Guidewire Software (GWRE) announced that Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Company, a major Japanese general insurance company, has selected and deployed Guidewire ClaimCenter (ClaimCenter) as its new claims management system. 
  • Sears Holdings (SHLD) announced the election of Cesar Alvarez, co-chairman of the international law firm of Greenberg Traurig, to membership on the Sears Holdings board of directors.

1:45 am Hershey Foods enters agreement to acquire majority share of Shanghai Golden Monkey Food Co (HSY) : Co announces has signed an agreement to acquire 80 percent of the iconic Shanghai Golden Monkey Food Joint Stock Co., Ltd. (SGM), a privately held confectionery company based in Shanghai, China. Completion of the agreement is expected to occur in the second quarter of 2014 and is subject to China regulatory and SGM shareholder approval. SGM’s net sales have been growing double digits, on a percentage basis, and the company is expected to generate net sales of more than $ 225 million in 2013.

1:37 am Pan Am Silver to expand its La Colorada mine (PAAS) : Co announces it has decided to proceed with the expansion of its La Colorada mine in Zacatecas, Mexico, based on the positive results of a recently completed Preliminary Economic Assessment. The PEA demonstrates that the relatively low-risk expansion project has the potential to provide robust after-tax economic returns using a $ 19 per ounce long-term silver price. The PEA contemplates an increase in silver production from the current level of approximately 4.7 million ounces per year to 7.7 million ounces per year by the end of 2017, for an incremental capital investment of $ 80 million, the majority of which will be spent over the next 3 years.

1:31 am SuperCom priced 3 mln ordinary shares at $ 4.00 per share (SPCB) :  

1:25 am Five Oaks Investment prices 800K shares of its 8.75% Series A Cummulative Redeemable Pref Stock at $ 25.00 per share (OAKS) :  

1:22 am Moody’s raises its quarterly dividend by 12% to $ 0.28, up from $ 0.25 prior (MCO) :  

1:19 am Sensata Tech acquires Wabash Technologies (ST) : Co announces that certain subsidiaries have reached an agreement to acquire Wabash Technologies from an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners, Inc.  Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.  The transaction is not subject to regulatory review and is expected to close in January.
Wabash is a designer and manufacturer of a broad range of custom-designed sensors, including rotary and linear position, speed and engine timing sensors.  The company also supplies fuel injection stators/actuators for diesel engines.

The company’s customer base includes major U.S. and European OEMs and leading Tier 1 systems suppliers serving the automotive, heavy vehicle, agriculture, construction and off-highway markets. Wabash is expected to generate revenues of ~$ 75 million in 2013.

The transaction will be accretive to earnings in 2014 prior to integration costs

1:15 am AFC Enterprises completes new 5-yr $ 125 mln revolving credit facility (AFCE) :  

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Stock Market Update from Briefing.com


2:30 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The major indices have been locked in mostly sideways action for the last hour or so.  Interestingly, the S&P 500 made a run at yesterday’s high.  On the brink of getting there, selling interest percolated to hold it back.

There just isn’t a lot of leadership to speak of at the moment, which is preventing a breakout effort.  In turn, bond traders haven’t been in a hurry to buy today’s dip, so the yield on the 10-yr note remains pinned near its high for the day at 2.93%.  That is being watched closely as it is thought a move above 2.95% opens the door for a quick move to 3.00% that some think will be a brake on the equity rally.

Volume isn’t all that heavy today, but that won’t be the case tomorrow with the quarterly rebalancing and quadruple witching options expiration day (index futures, single stock futures, stock options, and index options).

1:55 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] All in all, the stock market is showing some good resilience today after a big surge yesterday in the wake of the FOMC decision to taper..  The strength of that move, and the talk of a possible setup for a “Santa Claus” rally, could be keeping sellers at bay.

The “Santa Claus” period, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac, encompasses the last five trading days of the year and the first two trading days of the new year.  That period has been good for an average gain of 1.6% since 1969.  Over the last 44 years, there have been only 10 instances when Santa failed to show up (i.e. the return for the period was negative).  The most recent was 2007 when the S&P 500 dropped 2.5%, so it’s currently riding a five-year winning streak.

In terms of today’s performance, large-cap averages are exhibiting the best relative strength.   The S&P Midcap 400 Index and the Russell 2000 are currently down 0.7% and 0.4%, respectively, after leading their larger counterparts in 2013.

1:30 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 has trimmed its loss to 0.1% as the deliberate rebound off the morning lows continues. The three advancing sectors-energy (+0.3%), materials (+0.2%), and technology (+0.2%)-have now been joined in the green by telecom services (+0.1%). However, the telecom sector is the smallest S&P 500 group, which limits its influence over the broader market.

Interestingly, despite the rebound in the Dow and S&P 500, the Nasdaq (-0.3%) remains near its opening level. Small-caps also lag as the Russell 2000 trades lower by 0.4%.

1:00 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The major averages are little changed at midday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hovers right at its flat line while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 hold respective losses of 0.3% and 0.2%.

Equities began the session on a lower note amid some profit taking following yesterday’s surge that sent the Dow and S&P 500 to record closing highs. The early selling was limited as the indices notched their lows 45 minutes into the session before staging a turnaround.

The Dow has already returned to its flat line thanks to the outperformance of some of its top-weighted components. Chevron (CVX 123.02, +1.42), IBM (IBM 179.97, +1.27), and Visa (V 216.81, +1.46) hold gains between 0.7% and 1.2%.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has yet to regain its flat line as seven of ten sectors register losses. On the upside, the three advancing sectors-energy, materials, and technology-hold modest gains of no more than 0.2%.

The energy sector (+0.1%) trades just above its flat line as crude oil displays a gain of 1.2% at $ 99.27 per barrel. The other commodity-linked group-materials (+0.1%)-has received support from steelmakers. The Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX 49.25, +0.60) trades higher by 1.2%. Despite the notable gain, the sector also has to contend with significant weakness among miners. The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX 20.52, -0.34) is lower by 1.6% as gold futures trade down 3.3% at $ 1194.60 per troy ounce.

Elsewhere, the tech sector is being underpinned by Accenture (ACN 79.73, +4.11) and Oracle (ORCL 36.52, +1.92) after both reported better-than-expected results.

Even though the technology sector can be found among the leaders, the tech-heavy Nasdaq (-0.3%) continues to hover near its opening levels. The largest index component, Apple (AAPL 545.28, -5.49), has contributed to the weakness as it trades lower by 1.0%. Biotechnology also weighs as the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 218.41, -0.90) displays a loss of 0.4%.

Treasuries hover in the red with the benchmark 10-yr yield up four basis points at 2.93%.

Participants received several economic data points today. The weekly initial claims level increased to 379,000 from an upwardly revised 369,000 (from 368,000). The Briefing.com consensus expected the initial claims level to fall to 333,000. Once again, today’s release was accompanied by a statement saying the claims data was biased with Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays responsible for this week’s skewed reading.

November existing home sales hit an annualized rate of 4.90 million units, which was a bit weaker than the rate of 5.00 million units that had been expected by the consensus. The pace for November was down from the prior month’s unrevised rate of 5.12 million units.

Separately, the Leading Indicators report for November increased 0.8%. That followed a 0.2% increase in September, and was better than the 0.6% uptick expected by the consensus.

Lastly, the November Philadelphia Fed Survey rose to 7.0 from 6.5. Economists polled by Briefing.com had expected that the Survey would decline to 5.0.

12:30 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] The Dow (+0.03%) has clawed its way back to its flat line, but the Nasdaq (-0.3%) remains essentially where it started today’s session.

Despite the outperformance of the technology sector (+0.2%), the tech-heavy Nasdaq is feeling the weight of its largest component, Apple (AAPL 545.86, -4.91), which trades lower by 0.9%. The index is also being pressured by biotechnology as the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 218.59, -0.72) trades lower by 0.3%.

12:00 pm: [BRIEFING.COM] Recent action saw the major averages continue working their way back from the morning lows. The S&P 500 has narrowed its loss to 0.2% while the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovers less than 0.1% below its flat line.

The price-weighted Dow owes its outperformance to some of its most influential components. Chevron (CVX 122.80, +1.20), IBM (IBM 179.86, +1.16), and Visa (V 216.48, +1.13) hold gains between 0.5% and 1.0%.

Elsewhere, Treasuries have risen off their lows, but they remain down for the day. The benchmark 10-yr yield is higher by three basis points at 2.93%.

11:25 am: [BRIEFING.COM] Not much has changed since our last update as the major averages remain near their opening levels.

The technology sector (+0.2%) continues to outperform with Oracle (ORCL 36.19, +1.59) contributing to the strength. Shares of Oracle trade higher by 4.7% after the company beat its earnings estimates by two cents on above-consensus revenue. On a related note, Accenture (ACN 78.81, +3.19) also outperforms, trading higher by 4.2% after reporting better-than-expected results.

Outside of the two big gainers, other tech components trade in mixed fashion. Facebook (FB 54.57, -1.00) is lower by 1.8% after commencing a public offering of 70 million shares of its common stock. Of the 70 million shares, 41.35 million shares are being sold by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Chipmakers can also be found among the laggards as the PHLX Semiconductor Index trades lower by 0.6%.

11:00 am: [BRIEFING.COM] Equity indices have ticked up off their lows, but they continue to hold the bulk of their losses. The tech-heavy Nasdaq (-0.3%) remains among the laggards but the small-cap Russell 2000 (-0.4%) has slipped behind all of its peers.

Sector standing remains little changed from our earlier updates with most groups trading lower. At this juncture, the materials sector (+0.1%) is lone advancer as steelmakers contribute to the strength. The Market Vectors Steel ETF (SLX 49.28, +0.63) trades up 1.3%. Despite the notable strength of steelmakers, the sector is being weighed down by miners. The Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX 20.52, -0.34) is lower by 1.6% while gold futures display a loss of 3.2% at $ 1195.90 per troy ounce.

The other commodity-related group, energy, hovers right at its flat line while crude oil trades higher by 0.5% at $ 98.57 per barrel.

10:35 am: [BRIEFING.COM]

  • The dollar index has been in positive territory all day so far and remains near its HoD
  • Gold and silver have been in the red all day so far
  • Gold broke below $ 1200/oz and remains there. Feb gold is currently -3.2% at $ 1195.70/oz
  • Silver remains at its LoD. Mar silver is now -4.5% at $ 19.16/oz
  • Crude oil futures began to take off higher just before pit trade began Feb crude ran as high as $ 98.70/barrel. Crude is now +0.5% at $ 98.52/barrel
  • Natural gas is higher, and was near its HoD just ahead of the weekly EIA inventory data
  • Following the inventory data, Jan natural gas popped to a new HoD. Jan nat gas is now +3.0% at $ 4.38/MMBtu

10:00 am: [BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 continues to hover near its session low (-0.3%) as nine of ten sectors display losses.

November existing home sales hit an annualized rate of 4.90 million units, which was a bit weaker than the rate of 5.00 million units that had been generally expected by the Briefing.com consensus. The pace for November was down from the prior month’s unrevised rate of 5.12 million units.

Separately, the Leading Indicators report for November increased 0.8%. That followed a 0.2% increase in September, and was better than the 0.6% uptick expected by the Briefing.com consensus.

Lastly, the November Philadelphia Fed Survey rose to 7.0 from 6.5. Economists polled by Briefing.com had expected that the Survey would decline to 5.0.

9:40 am: [BRIEFING.COM] Equity indices registered opening losses with the Nasdaq (-0.3%) pacing the opening retreat. Interestingly, despite the early underperformance of the Nasdaq, the tech sector (+0.1%) is the only group trading in positive territory.

The remaining nine sectors display losses between 0.1% (energy and materials) and 1.0% (utilities). More importantly, heavily-weighted financials (-0.3%) and health care (-0.3%) are among the early laggards.

Elsewhere, Treasuries have held their levels for the past 45 minutes after spending over four hours in a steady retreat. The benchmark 10-yr yield is higher by five basis points at 2.94%.

November Existing Home Sales, November Leading Indicators, and the December Philadelphia Fed Survey will all be released at 10:00 ET.

9:15 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -6.20. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -12.50. Equities are expected to begin today’s session on a lower note as index futures hover near their worst pre-market levels. The S&P 500 futures trade six points below fair value with the entire decline coming in the past 45 minutes. There was no specific catalyst responsible for the drop, which suggests it was likely a function of profit taking after the Dow and S&P 500 ended yesterday’s session at new record closing highs.

The retreat in futures coincided with Treasuries falling to their lows after spending the entire morning in a downtrend. The benchmark 10-yr yield is higher by almost five basis points at 2.94%. More notably, the 5-yr note has been under more aggressive selling pressure with its yield spiking eight basis points to 1.68%.

Pre-market economic data was limited to weekly initial claims, which rose to 379,000 from 369,000. The reading was disappointing at first glance, but the Department of Labor said that seasonal adjustment issues related to the holidays continue to skew claims data.

November Existing Home Sales, November Leading Indicators, and the December Philadelphia Fed Survey will all be released at 10:00 ET.

8:57 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -6.30. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -12.50. U.S. equity futures fell to their lows during the past 30 minutes of action without a specific catalyst. The S&P 500 futures now trade more than six points below fair value.

Asian markets ended mixed as Japan’s Nikkei (+1.7%) rallied while markets in China (-1.0%) and Hong Kong (-1.1%) lagged as the recent liquidity crunch intensified once again. The two-week Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate jumped almost 114 basis points to 6.218%.

Economic data was scarce. Japan’s foreign bonds buying report indicated net purchases in the amount of JPY110.50 billion (JPY390.10 billion prior). Separately, the All Industries Activity Index ticked down 0.2% month-over-month (-0.2% expected, 0.5% last). Elsewhere, New Zealand’s GDP rose 1.4% quarter-over-quarter (1.1% consensus, 0.3% previous).

  • Japan’s Nikkei gained 1.7%, ending less than 100 points below its mid-May high as heavyweights Fast Retailing and FANUC led the advance. The two names settled higher by 4.5% and 4.1%, respectively. 
  • Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1.1% after falling from its flat line into the close. Property names weighed as China Resource Land and Hang Lung Properties fell 2.5% and 4.6%, respectively. 
  • China’s Shanghai Composite slid 1.0%, ending on its lows. Financials weighed as China Vanke lost 1.5%. 

Major European indices hold solid gains across the board. Among new of note, there are reports circulating that Eurozone finance ministers have reached an agreement on a single resolution mechanism to be used in winding down troubled banks. Elsewhere, Fitch affirmed the United Kingdom’s sovereign rating at ‘AA+’ with a Stable outlook.

Investors received several economic data points. Eurozone current account surplus expanded to EUR21.80 billion from EUR14.90 billion (EUR14.20 billion expected). Great Britain’s retail sales ticked up 0.3% month-over-month (0.3% expected, -0.9% prior) while the year-over-year reading increased 2.0% (2.3% forecast, 1.8% last). Core retail sales increased 0.4% month-over-month (0.3% consensus, -0.7% prior) while the year-over-year reading pointed to an increase of 2.3% (2.5% forecast, 2.3% last). Italy’s wages were unchanged month-over-month (0.2% prior). Elsewhere, Spain’s industrial new orders fell 4.0% year-over-year (1.1% expected, -0.3% prior).

  • Great Britain’s FTSE is higher by 1.0% with industrials and financials in the lead. Petrofac is higher by 4.3% and Standard Life holds an advance of 2.8%. Miners lag with Fresnillo, Glencore Xstrata, and Randgold Resources down between 0.5% and 2.9%. 
  • In France, the CAC trades up 1.2% as growth-sensitive names contribute to the gains. Technip is higher by 3.2% while financials AXA and Credit Agricole trade with respective gains of 3.0% and 2.3%. 
  • Germany’s DAX sports an advance of 1.3%. Deutsche Boerse leads with a gain of 2.6% while Deutsche Post follows (+1.9%) not far behind. On the downside, HeidelbergCement is lower by 0.8%.

8:31 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -2.00. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -5.30. The S&P 500 futures continue to hover two points below fair value.

The latest weekly initial jobless claims count totaled 379,000, which was higher than the 333,000 that had been expected by the Briefing.com consensus. Today’s tally was above the revised prior week count of 369,000 (from 368,000). As for continuing claims, they rose to 2.884 million from 2.790 million.

7:59 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -1.70. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -5.50. U.S. equity futures hold modest losses amid light profit taking following yesterday’s surge that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 to new record closing highs. The S&P 500 futures hover less than two points below fair value.

Reviewing overnight developments:

  • Asian markets ended mixed. Japan’s Nikkei +1.7%, China’s Shanghai Composite -1.0%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng -1.1%. 
    • Regional economic data was limited: 
      • Japan’s foreign bonds buying report indicated net purchases in the amount of JPY110.50 billion (JPY390.10 billion prior). Separately, the All Industries Activity Index ticked down 0.2% month-over-month (-0.2% expected, 0.5% last). 
      • New Zealand’s GDP rose 1.4% quarter-over-quarter (1.1% consensus, 0.3% previous). 
    • In news: 
      • Markets in China underperformed as the recent liquidity crunch intensified once again. The two-week Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate jumped almost 114 basis points to 6.218%.
  • Major European indices hold solid gains across the board. Great Britain’s FTSE +1.1%, France’s CAC +1.2%, and Germany’s DAX +1.4%. Elsewhere, Italy’s MIB +1.4% and Spain’s IBEX +1.6%. 
    • Investors received several economic data points: 
      • Eurozone current account surplus expanded to EUR21.80 billion from EUR14.90 billion (EUR14.20 billion expected). 
      • Great Britain’s retail sales ticked up 0.3% month-over-month (0.3% expected, -0.9% prior) while the year-over-year reading increased 2.0% (2.3% forecast, 1.8% last). Core retail sales increased 0.4% month-over-month (0.3% consensus, -0.7% prior) while the year-over-year reading pointed to an increase of 2.3% (2.5% forecast, 2.3% last). 
      • Italy’s wages were unchanged month-over-month (0.2% prior). 
      • Spain’s industrial new orders fell 4.0% year-over-year (1.1% expected, -0.3% prior). 
    • Among news of note: 
      • Fitch affirmed the United Kingdom’s sovereign rating at ‘AA+’ with a Stable outlook. 
      • Reports indicate Eurozone finance ministers have reached an agreement on a single resolution mechanism to be used in winding down troubled banks. 

In U.S. corporate news:

  • Accenture (ACN 78.00, +2.38): +3.2% following its earnings beat on above-consensus revenue. 
  • Darden Restaurants (DRI 53.52, +0.60): +1.1% after reporting in-line results. Also of note, the company announced plans to enhance shareholder value, which include a spinoff of Red Lobster. 
  • Facebook (FB 53.30, -2.27): -4.1% after commencing a public offering of 70 million shares of its common stock. Of the 70 million shares, 41.35 million shares are being sold by founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 
  • Oracle (ORCL 35.19, +0.59): +1.7% after beating on earnings and revenue. 

Weekly initial claims will be reported at 8:30 ET while Existing Home Sales for November will cross the wires at 10:00 ET. In addition, November Leading Indicators and the December Philadelphia Fed Survey will also be released at 10:00 ET.

6:39 am: [BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: flat. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -2.00.

6:39 am: [BRIEFING.COM] Nikkei…15852.22…+271.40+1.70%.  Hang Seng…22888.75…-255.10-1.10%.

6:39 am: [BRIEFING.COM] FTSE…6557.47…+65.20+1.00%.  DAX…9315.56…+133.70+1.50%.

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