April 2, 2013 / 1:23 PM / 4 years ago

MARKET PULSE-Health insurers, Ford, Urban Outfitters, Vodafone

(For more market insights, including options activity, click on ; for the Day Ahead newsletter link.reuters.com/mex49s)

April 2 (Reuters) - Some U.S. stocks to watch on Tuesday:

FUTURES POINT TO HIGHER OPEN, S&P 500‘S RECORD IN VIEW

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Tuesday, suggesting a rebound from the previous session and again putting the S&P 500 within striking distance of its all-time intraday high.

S&P 500 futures rose 6.3 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 48 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 19.25 points.

** HUMANA INC, Monday close $75.02, up 12 pct premarket

** UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INC, Monday close $58.97, up 4 pct premarket

** AETNA INC, Monday close $52.38, up 2 pct after market

** UNIVERSAL AMERICAN CORP, Monday close $8.68, up 9 pct premarket

** MOLINA HEALTHCARE INC, Monday close $30.76, up 2 pct after market

In a reversal that followed intense lobbying from the health insurance industry and members of Congress, the U.S. government said it would increase the payment rate for health insurers that offer coverage through the Medicare Advantage program by 3.3 percent in 2014, from the 2.3 percent cut announced in February.

Brokerage Raymond James upgraded the stocks of Unitedhealth Group to “strong buy” from “outperform” and of Universal American to “market perform” from “underperform” after the favourable decision. The brokerage also raised its price target on Humana from $90 to $85.

** FORD MOTOR CO, Monday close $12.90, up 1 pct premarket

** GENERAL MOTORS CO, Monday close $27.80, up 1 pct premarket

Chrysler Group LLC kicked off March U.S. auto sales, which are expected to reach the highest monthly total in the United States in more than five years, buoyed by attractive financing packages and pent-up demand.

Chrysler reported U.S. sales of 171,606 vehicles for March, the group’s best monthly sales since December 2007. Other automakers will follow with their reports through Tuesday.

** BGC PARTNERS INC, Monday close $3.85, up 40 pct premarket

** NASDAQ OMX GROUP INC, Monday close $32.01, down 7 pct premarket

Nasdaq OMX Group agreed to buy electronic Treasuries-trading platform eSpeed from BGC Partners for $750 million in cash, providing the exchange operator an entry into one of the world’s largest and most liquid cash markets.

** VODAFONE , Monday close $28.34, up 5 pct premarket

The Financial Times Alphaville blog cited “usually reliable people” as saying that Verizon Communications and AT&T have been working together on a breakup bid for Vodafone.

Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile operator, has been at the center of deal speculation in recent months, linked to its ownership of a 45 percent stake in U.S. mobile operator Verizon Wireless.

** OBAGI MEDICAL PRODUCTS INC, Monday close $19.71, up 16 pct premarket

** VALEANT PHARMACEUTICALS INTERNATIONAL INC , Monday close $76.05

Neurological and dermatology drugs maker Merz Pharma Group offered to buy cosmetic products maker Obagi Medical Products for $383.5 million, topping a bid by Canada’s Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc last month.

** APPLE INC, Monday close $428.91

Chief Executive Tim Cook apologized to Chinese consumers on Monday and altered iPhone warranty policies in its No. 2 market after more than two weeks of condemnation in the state-run media of its after-sales service.

Fidelity Contrafund, a $92 billion fund that is the largest active shareholder in Apple, on Monday reported that it cut its stake in the iPhone maker by 10 percent during the first two months of 2013.

** NUANCE COMMUNICATIONS INC, Monday close $20.18, up 9 pct premarket

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn, known for taking large “activist” positions in companies and pushing for management change, has taken a 9.27 percent stake in speech recognition and digital imaging software maker Nuance Communications, according to a regulatory filing on Monday.

** URBAN OUTFITTERS INC, Monday close $38.41, up 6 pct premarket

The clothing retailer said that comparable retail segment net sales are trending positive in high single digits so far in the first quarter of fiscal 2014. (link.reuters.com/fes96t)

“This supports our belief that Urban Outfitters is offering the consumer trend-right, appealing apparel, and bodes well for near-term results,” Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe wrote in a note.

He also said the outlook for the rest of the quarter is favorable as pent-up demand for spring merchandise is likely to fuel April sales.

** DFC GLOBAL CORP, Monday close $13.04, up 3.5 pct premarket

Nomura upgraded the pawn and payday lender’s stock to “buy” from “hold”, citing an attractive risk/reward at current valuation levels. The brokerage said DFC Global is being prudent by ensuring compliance with regulatory standards in the United Kingdom.

** HEWLETT PACKARD, Monday close $23.31, down 4 pct premarket

Goldman Sachs cut its rating on the world’s No.1 personal computer maker’s stock to “sell” from “neutral”, theflyonthewall.com reported.

** MICRON TECHNOLOGY, Monday close $9.38, up 2 pct premarket

CNBC’s Mad Money host Jim Cramer said on his show late on Monday that the chipmaker was “one of the most intriguing leaders in the first quarter”. Cramer said that following Micron’s acquisition of Japanese memory chipmaker Elpida, the company was coming in as the second-biggest company in the slow-end memory chip business behind Samsung Electronics .

** TEXAS INSTRUMENTS INC, Monday close $35.01, down 1 pct premarket

Stifel Nicolaus downgraded the chipmaker’s stock to “hold” from “buy,” saying it expected orders to slow down in the near term. “We also continue to observe weaker macroeconomic data points from China, which we believe could be causing the semiconductor supply chain to take a cautious approach to inventory levels and build rates,” the brokerage said in a note to clients.

** NORDIC AMERICAN TANKER LTD, Monday close $11.02, down 12 pct premarket

The oil tanker operator said it is commencing a public offering of $87 million worth common shares and will use the proceeds to buy tankers and for general corporate purposes.

** F5 NETWORKS INC, Monday close $87.91, up 2 pct premarket

Baird Equity Research upgraded the network gear maker’s stock to “outperform”, saying the company is benefiting from healthy demand particularly in its security business.

“We believe F5 will benefit from some incremental business following Cisco’s decision to end development of its traditional ADC solution,” analyst Jayson Noland wrote in a note.

** BLACKBERRY ; Monday close $15.10, up 2 pct premarket

Brokerage Societe Generale raised its price target on the Canadian company’s stock to $13 from $8.4, saying the launch of the company’s new Z10 smartphone has gone much better than expected and there should be opportunity for volumes to grow again in the first quarter of 2014.

“The key concern for Blackberry is the short shelf life of high-end handsets. Samsung will launch its Galaxy S4 also in April and Blackberry may struggle to keep momentum. Nonetheless, this is an impressive turnaround for the company,” analyst Andy Perkins wrote in a note dated March 28.

** QUALCOMM INC, Monday close $66, up 1.5 pct premarket

Raymond James raised upgraded the chipmaker’s stock to “strong buy” from “outperform,” and raised its price target to $83 from $80.

“Qualcomm will maintain a meaningful advantage on high-end smartphones and continues to lead the world in system-on-chip integration,” the brokerage said in a note to clients.

** EBAY INC, Monday close $55.71, up 1 pct premarket

Topeka Capital Markets upgraded the e-commerce company’s stock to “buy” from “hold”, saying it is on track to meet its three-year plan for “an aspirational doubling of the payments business and near mid-teens growth in e-commerce”.

The brokerage also raised its price target on the stock to $65 from $54.

** SHOE CARNIVAL INC, Monday close $20.21, down 3 pct aftermarket

The footwear retailer forecast first-quarter results below Wall Street expectations as the cold and wet weather in March hurt sales of its higher margin spring sandal and athletic products.

The company said it expects earnings to be in the range of 36 cents to 44 cents per share and sales of between $226 and $232 million. Analysts on average were expecting earnings of 57 cents per share on revenue of $239.7 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

** ACTAVIS INC, Monday close $92.46, up 3 pct after market

A U.S. court ruling that the patent protecting AstraZeneca’s Pulmicort Repsules asthma treatment is invalid clears the way for a generic copy from Actavis.

Total branded and generic sales of Pulmicort Repsules were around $1.2 billion in the United States in the 12 months to January 2013, according to Actavis.

** ASTEX PHARMACEUTICALS INC, Monday close $4.57, up 4 pct premarket

JMP Securities initiated coverage on the company’s stock with an “outperform” rating and a price target of $8, saying a 10-year marketing exclusivity in the European Union for Astex’s blood disorder drug will benefit the company’s current valuation.

** INVESTORS REAL ESTATE TRUST, Monday close $9.71, down 2.5 pct premarket

The REIT, which owns and operates residential and commercial properties, said it has commenced an underwritten public offering of 8 million shares. The company intends to use the proceeds to repay debt and for general business purposes.

** CBS, Monday close $45.74

** COMCAST CORP, Monday close $41.38

** NEWS CORP, Monday close $30.34

U.S. regulators on Monday launched a review of policy governing the way it enforces broadcasts of nudity and profanity on radio and television and asked for public comment on whether its current approach should be amended.

The Federal Communications Commission issued a public notice inviting comment on whether it should focus its efforts on pursuing only the “most egregious” cases in which rules are broken, or focus on isolated cases of nudity and expletives uttered on radio and TV shows.

** CITIGROUP INC, Monday close $43.79

A Manhattan federal judge on Monday signaled he will not rubber-stamp Citigroup’s proposed $590 million settlement of a shareholder lawsuit accusing it of hiding tens of billions of dollars of toxic mortgage assets.

U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein asked lawyers for the bank and its shareholders to address several issues at an April 8 fairness hearing, including requested legal fees and expenses of roughly $100 million, and the absence of payments by former Citigroup executives. (Compiled by Pallavi Ail in Bangalore,)

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