April 2, 2013 / 4:24 PM / 5 years ago

MARKET PULSE-Health insurers, Delta Air, Ford, Optimer Pharma, Hertz

(For more market insights, including options activity, click on ; for the Day Ahead newsletter link.reuters.com/mex49s; for the Morning News Call newsletter, link.reuters.com/faq23t)

April 2 (Reuters) - Some U.S. stocks on the move on Tuesday:

HEALTHCARE LEADS WALL ST HIGHER, S&P RECORD IN VIEW

U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, putting the S&P 500 within striking distance of its all-time intraday high as healthcare stocks surged on prospects of a boost to earnings.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 83.90 points, or 0.58 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 9.51 points, or 0.61 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 24.75 points, or 0.76 percent.

** HUMANA INC, $81.92, up 9 pct (0931 ET)

** UNITEDHEALTH GROUP INC $62.19, up 5 pct (0931 ET)

** AETNA INC, $54.88, up 5 pct (0931 ET)

** UNIVERSAL AMERICAN CORP $9.36, up 8 pct (0932 ET)

** MOLINA HEALTHCARE INC, $31.37, up 2 pct (0932 ET)

** CIGNA CORP, $65.49, up 4 pct (1000 ET)

** WELLCARE HEALTH PLANS INC, $63.45, up 5 pct (1001 ET)

** VANGUARD HEALTH SYSTEMS INC, $15.10, up 3 pct (1005 ET)

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.

** OPTIMER PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $14, up 20 pct (1119 ET)

Shares of the company rose after a Bloomberg report, citing unnamed sources, said GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc were among those interested in buying the antibiotic maker.

Optimer aims to get as much as $1 billion in a possible auction, the report said, quoting two sources familiar with the matter.

** HERTZ GLOBAL HOLDINGS INC, $23.14, up 5.5 pct (1035 ET)

** AVIS BUDGET GROUP INC, $28.59, up 4 pct (1035 ET)

Car rental company Hertz Global Holdings Inc raised its three-year financial outlook on strong global demand and said total revenue would increase by up to 14 percent by 2015.

** DELTA AIR LINES INC, $15.1, down 7 pct (1001 ET)

** JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP, $6.59, down 2 pct

Delta’s unit revenue for March rose 2 percent from a year earlier, but was lower than its forecast due to lower-than-expected demand, temporary inefficiencies during implementation of new revenue management technology and lower close-in bookings driven by the sequester.

** FORD MOTOR CO, $13.03, up 1 pct (1203 ET)

** GENERAL MOTORS CO, $27.95, up 1 pct (1204 ET)

Ford and Chrysler Group LLC reported on Tuesday slightly better-than-expected U.S. auto sales in March, buoyed by greater demand for sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, while General Motors fell short of estimates.

March is expected to be the fifth consecutive month that the industry’s annual sales pace has held above 15 million vehicles, a sign that rising home values are helping American consumers feel more confident about buying a new vehicle.

** UNITED STATES STEEL CORP, $18.18, down 4 pct

** ARCELORMITTAL SA, $12.41, down 3 pct (1030 ET)

Downbeat manufacturing data from China and the United States in March indicated stuttering growth momentum in the top consumers of steel. The deteriorating fundamentals also weighed on the metal prices.

U.S. factory activity grew at the slowest rate in three months in March as the effects of tighter fiscal policy started kicking in.

** BGC PARTNERS INC, $5.46, up 42 pct (0935 ET)

** NASDAQ OMX GROUP INC, $28.91, down 9 pct (0955 ET)

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.

BGC is the top gainer on Nasdaq today with more than 17 million shares traded.

** YAMANA GOLD ; $14.79; down 2 pct (1003 ET)

** ELDORADO GOLD CORP ; down 3 pct (1003 ET)

** ENDEAVOUR SILVER CORP ; $5.98; down 3 pct (1006 ET)

Shares of precious metal producers such as Yamana Gold and ElDorado Gold fell after gold prices were down more than 1 percent to a 2-1/2 week low.

Spot gold fell as low as $1,581.89 an ounce, its weakest since March 14. Prices of platinum, palladium and silver also fell.

** VODAFONE , $29.81, up 5 pct (0936 ET)

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.

Vodafone’s shares were most traded on the Nasdaq, with more than 30 million shares changing hands.

** IGO INC, $2.47, down 36 pct (1004 ET)

The company, which designs products such as chargers for notebooks and mobile phones, reported a 25 percent drop in fourth-quarter revenue on lower sales of its power products.

“We continue to see ongoing competitive pressures impacting our revenues and margins,” Chief Executive Michael Heil said in a statement.

** EZCORP INC, $19.71, down 6 pct (1140 ET)

FBR Capital Markets downgraded the pawn and payday lender to “underperform” from “market perform” and cut its price target to $17.50 from $22 citing weak corporate governance and an expected slow down in U.S. retail sales in the quarter.

The brokerage said that the company’s Class A investors, who have no voting rights, are frustrated by the outsized compensation of $8.7 million paid to EZCORP’s non-executive in 2011, and $7.2 million in annual advisory fees to be paid to Madison Park, which is fully owned by Philip Cohen who controls all of the Class B voting shares and 12 percent of the company.

** OBAGI MEDICAL PRODUCTS INC, $22.88, up 16 pct (1010 ET)

** VALEANT PHARMACEUTICALS INTERNATIONAL INC , $76.42 (0939 ET)

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, $432.71, up 1 pct (0939 ET)

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.

** NUANCE COMMUNICATIONS INC, $21.78, up 8 pct (0940 ET)

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.

** BOINGO WIRELESS INC, $5.93, up 8 pct (1010 ET)

The Wi-Fi software and services provider authorized the repurchase of up to $10 million of its outstanding common stock at the prevailing prices.

** BROADWIND ENERGY INC, $4.45, up 10 pct (1005 ET)

The company, which makes products for the wind power industry, won a $14 million order for wind towers in the United States. Broadwind said the towers are scheduled to be delivered in the second half of this year.

** URBAN OUTFITTERS INC, $40.52, up 5 pct (0941 ET)

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 $13.28, up 2 pct (0941 ET)

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, $22.18, down 5 pct (0942 ET)

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

** GROUPON INC, $5.61, down 6 pct (10:04 ET)

UBS started coverage on the daily deals company with a "sell" rating, streetinsider.com reported. (r.reuters.com/nus96t)

** MICRON TECHNOLOGY, $9.54, up 2 pct (0942 ET)

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, $34.75, down 1 pct (0942 ET)

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.

** SUPERVALU INC, $4.96, up 2 percent (1020 ET)

Billionaire investor Steven Cohen, owner of the $15 billion hedge fund SAC Capital, declared a 5.1 percent stake in the grocery store operator, according to a regulatory filing on Monday. (r.reuters.com/rus96t)

** NORDIC AMERICAN TANKER LTD, $9.94, down 10 pct (1207 ET)

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.

Analysts at Evercore Partners expressed their doubt about the company’s ability to afford the additional growth as the offering would increase the company’s share count by 18 percent. “The transaction appears more likely to be dilutive than accretive in the medium term,” Evercore analyst Jonathan Chappell said.

Nordic American were the top percentage loser on the New York Stock Exchange in midday trading.

** F5 NETWORKS INC, $89.51, up 2 pct (0944 ET)

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, $15.29, up 1.5 pct (0945 ET)

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, $66.55, up 1 pct (0946 ET)

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, $56.36, up 1 pct (0946 ET)

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.

** ACTAVIS INC, $96.22, up 4 pct (0948 ET)

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, $4.72, up 4 pct (0948 ET)

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, $9.29, down 4 pct (0949 ET)

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.

** CITIGROUP INC, $44.26, up 1 pct (0950 ET)

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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