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U.S. stocks were lower near midday on Wednesday, weighed down by a sharp decline in the energy sector on the latest weakness in oil prices. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.86 percent at 17,647.51, the S&P 500 was down 0.76 percent at 2,044.21 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.65 percent at 4,735.57.
** GLAXOSMITHKLINE PLC, $43.22, -2.02 pct
Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut its rating to "underperform" from "neutral" on Britain's biggest drugmaker , citing near-term margin pressures, lower long-term expectations for new respiratory products and reduced buybacks given lower earnings.
** SEVENTY SEVEN ENERGY INC, $4.81, -14.87 pct
** REX ENERGY CORP, $5.17, -5.40 pct
** SANCHEZ ENERGY CORP, $7, -7.53 pct
** HALCON RESOURCES CORP, $1.735, -8.68 pct
** WHITING PETROLEUM CORP, $31.25, -6.86 pct
** BREITBURN ENERGY PARTNERS LP, $9.36, -8.50 pct
** CALIFORNIA RESOURCES CORP, $5.68, -7.19 pct
Oil and gas companies' stocks fell as global oil prices touched a five-year low and at least 4 brokerages cut ratings and price targets on about 50 companies. Brent crude oil fell more than $2 a barrel to a new five-year low on forecasts that oversupply would keep building until next year after OPEC decided not to cut output.
** CONOCOPHILLIPS, $63.37, -2.45 pct
** CHEVRON CORP, $103.708, -3.09 pct
** ENERGY XXI (BERMUDA) LTD, $2.95, -7.81 pct
** GOODRICH PETROLEUM CORP, $3.53, -13.69 pct
** OASIS PETROLEUM INC, $11.6, -8.37 pct
** CONTINENTAL RESOURCES INC, $33.82, -6.52 pct
** HESS CORP, $68.85, -4.61 pct
U.S. oil and gas producers are scaling back capital spending plans for 2015, following a sharp decline in oil prices over the past six months. Global oil and gas exploration projects worth more than $150 billion are likely to be put on hold in 2015 as plunging oil prices render them uneconomic, according to data from Norwegian consultancy Rystad Energy.
** YUM! BRANDS INC, $71.58, -4.84 pct
At least three brokerages, including Barclays Capital, cut price targets on the stock after the company on Tuesday lowered its full-year profit forecast for the second time, hurt by a slower-than-expected recovery in China after a food safety scare in July.
"The question remains whether the China segment will ever return to full strength," Barclays analyst Jeffrey Bernstein wrote in a note, cutting his price target to $74 from $75.
** AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC, $49.8784, +3.25 pct
** UNITED CONTINENTAL HOLDINGS INC, $65.5, +4.77 pct
** DELTA AIR LINES INC, $46.95, +1.34 pct
** SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO, $42.5, +4.35 pct
** JETBLUE AIRWAYS, $15.46, +2.76 pct
** UNITED CONTINENTAL, $65.5, +4.77 pct
U.S. airline operators' shares rose after Barclays said lower oil prices may help companies next year. Airlines stand to see a decline of about $10 billion in fuel costs in 2015, analyst David Fintzen wrote in a note.
** LANDS' END INC, $46.75, -7.72 pct
The apparel retailer's third-quarter revenue fell 3 percent due to lower international sales and weaker sales at its shops within Sears Holdings Corp outlets. Lands' End was spun off from Sears last year.
** SYNTHESIS ENERGY SYSTEMS INC, $0.9975, +16.00 pct
The clean energy company's China joint venture partner, Zhangjiagang Chemical Machinery Co Ltd, secured orders worth more than $105 million for three industrial syngas supply plants.
** ALLOT COMMUNICATIONS LTD, $8.2, -9.29 pct
BofA Merrill Lynch downgraded the Israel-based bandwidth management services company's U.S.-listed shares to "underperform" from "buy" and cut its target price to $10.5 from $17.
"We have concerns over Allot's key fundamentals, weak carrier spending, uncertainty surrounding Title 2 reform (that enables FCC to enforce net neutrality) in the US and recent management departures," BofA analysts wrote in a note.
** COMSTOCK RESOURCES INC, $5.76, -11.52 pct
FBR & Co cut its price target to $8.50 from $20 on the oil and gas producer's shares, citing low commodity prices and expectations of continued volatility.
** FRANCESCA'S HOLDINGS CORP, $15.485, +2.35 pct
The women's apparel and accessories retailer's third-quarter net sales rose 9 percent to $87.1 million, driven by a 53 percent rise in e-commerce sales. Suntrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Pamela Quintiliano said the company's fourth-quarter profit forecast of 13-19 cents per share reflects a realistic bar for new Chief Executiver Michael Barnes.
** LAYNE CHRISTENSEN CO, $8.13, +13.07 pct
The water management company's third-quarter net loss from continuing operations narrowed to 19 cents per share from 79, while analysts on average expected a loss of 50 cents per share. The company also appointed Michael Caliel from Invensys Ltd as Chief Executive after Rene Robichaud quit in June.
** VAALCO ENERGY INC, $4.66, -18.25 pct
The oil and gas company shut its Etame 8-H well offshore Gabon due to the production of hydrogen sulfide during initial tests. The company said investigations are underway to determine the cause of sulfide production.
** CHC GROUP LTD, $3.88, -11.42 pct
The commercial helicopter operator reported second-quarter revenue below the average analyst estimate as some customers in the oil and gas industry delayed or canceled projects.
** YAMANA GOLD INC, $4.385, +1.98 pct
The Canadian gold miner said it will place some of its Brazilian assets that have been deemed non-core into a subsidiary dubbed Brio Gold and will explore a potential sale along with other options for the unit in 2015.
The company said the assets being parceled off into Brio Gold include Fazenda Brasileiro, C1 Santa Luz and Pilar, and its Agua Rica project.
** PETROQUEST ENERGY INC, $3.74, -6.27 pct
FBR Capital Markets cut its price target to $6 from $8 on the oil and gas producer's stock, citing weak oil and gas prices, slower production growth and lower capex levels.
** HOVNANIAN ENTERPRISES INC, $4.23, +8.46 pct
The U.S. homebuilder's fourth-quarter revenue jumped 18 percent and orders rose 8 percent as the U.S. housing market recovery picks up.
** TUNIU CORP, $11.96, +5.84 pct
** CTRIP.COM, $43.461, -1.11 pct
The companies announced an agreement to expand collaboration on shared travel resources. Ctrip bought $15 million of Tuniu Class A shares in May; it currently owns over 3 percent of Tuniu's outstanding shares.
** BEMIS CO INC, $42.87, +4.15 pct
BMO Capital Markets raised its rating on Tuesday to "outperform" from "market perform" and price target to $47 from $39 on the packaging material maker's stock.
An expected fall in the price of resin, which accounts for a large part of costs, to boost company's margin, analysts wrote in note.
** SILICON GRAPHICS INTERNATIONAL CORP, $10.09, +5.43 pct
Needham & Company LLC upgraded the supercomputing server maker's stock to "buy" from "hold".
"We are encouraged that Congress seems to be actively working together regarding the upcoming Federal Budget deadline of Dec. 11, and this should provide relief to companies like SGI (Silicon Graphics) that are closely tied to Federal spending cycles" - Needham analysts.
** CIVEO CORP, $7.64, -15.02 pct
The workforce accommodation provider's stock is to be replaced by KLX Inc in the S&P MidCap 400 index after market close on Dec. 16. Civeo gave a weak forecast late September and dropped plans of converting to a REIT.
** SEVCON INC, $8.7792, +12.41 pct
The controls maker for electric and hybrid vehicles won a contract to supply motor controllers to a "Tier-1 automotive supplier" in Southeast Asia. The company said the contract could result in $50 million in revenue through 2020.
** CYREN LTD, $2.28, +30.73 pct
The Israeli cloud-based cyber security provider said some of its technology will be used in China-based mobile application security provider Bangcle's products. Bangcle's security software covers 500 million mobile phones worldwide.
** WARREN RESOURCES INC, $1.42, -11.80 pct
The oil and gas producer said it was deferring crude oil development in Wilmington oil field due to weak prices. Warren said it expects capital spending to drop to about $80 million in 2015.
** ENERGOUS CORP, $7.45, -6.88 pct
The company, which is developing technology to charge electronic devices wirelessly, priced a public offering of 2.9 million shares at $7 per share, a discount of 12.5 percent to the stock's Tuesday closing.
** BELDEN INC, $80.43, +7.35 pct
The networking and cable product maker said on Tuesday that it would buy Portland-based cyber security firm Tripwire for $710 million. The deal is expected to add 65 cents per share to Belden's adjusted income from continuing operations in 2015.
** ARCA BIOPHARMA INC, $0.9688, +20.95 pct
ARCA said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted its experimental drug orphan drug status as a potential treatment for viral hemorrhagic fever after exposure to the Ebola virus.
** JPMORGAN CHASE & CO, $61.32, -1.81 pct
Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer says the bank will need more than $20 billion of additional capital to comply with the proposed extra capital cushion for the largest U.S. banks.
"While we're still reviewing the Fed's proposal, we are well capitalized and intend to meet their requirements and time frames...," JPMorgan spokesman Andrew Gray said.
** CYTORI THERAPEUTICS INC, $0.5225, +12.39 pct
The U.S. FDA granted conditional approval for a key clinical trial to evaluate the company's cell therapy as a potential treatment for impaired hand function in scleroderma patients. Cytori's technology, called the Celution System, needs a successful pivotal trial and FDA approval before it can be marketed in the United States.
** LINN ENERGY LLC, $13.3101, -8.96 pct
Stifel analysts cut their price target on the oil and gas company's stock to $22 from $27, citing a lower commodity price environment. The median price target on stock is $25, according to Thomson Reuters data.
** SEADRILL LTD, $11.53, -5.26 pct
UBS cut its price target on the Norway-based offshore driller's Oslo-listed shares to NOK 85 from NOK 210, citing lower oil prices. Analysts expect Brent to average below $70/bbl in 2015 and also cited current market condition having a negative affect on demand for deepwater units.
** KRISPY KREME DOUGHNUTS INC, $18.48, -8.42 pct
The doughnut retailer on Tuesday reported third-quarter profit and sales below expectations, hurt by higher promotions to boost traffic and lower sales at company-owned stores, compared with a year earlier.
** GOLDMAN SACHS, $193.84, -1.55 pct
The U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday proposed requiring eight of the largest U.S. banks to hold an extra capital cushion, and said the firms will need more equity if they rely on risky types of debt. Most of the banks, which include Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, would be held to higher capital requirements than under a similar rule by global regulators, officials said.
** COMTECH TELECOMMUNICATIONS CORP, $36.7, -5.78 pct
The communications equipment maker decided to remain independent after completing review of strategic alternatives. Comtech had begun its review in August, saying that merger or sale of the company was possible.
** CITIGROUP INC, $55.3, -0.98 pct
Citigroup will record $2.7 billion in litigation expenses and another $800 million in repositioning charges, leaving the third-largest U.S. bank "marginally profitable" in the fourth quarter, its chief executive officer said on Tuesday.
** FREEPORT-MCMORAN COPPER & GOLD INC, $24.89, -0.96 pct
The U.S. miner has agreed to pay 16.3 percent more in annual processing charges to large Chinese copper smelters in 2015, with the 10-year high fee likely to set the benchmark for China. (Compiled by Lehar Maan in Bengaluru,; Editing by Simon Jennings)