(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/nex49s) U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, boosted by a read on factory activity that was much stronger than expected, although investors continued to grapple with the prospect of an earlier-than-expected rate hike. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.76 percent at 16,344.75, the S&P 500 was up 0.67 percent at 1,873.15 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 0.44 percent at 4,326.405.
** THE CATO CORP, $26.445, -12.14 pct
The specialty apparel retailer reported a 7 percent fall in fourth-quarter net sales, hurt by a promotional holiday sales season and a severe winter, and said 2014 same-store sales may be fall up to 2 percent.
The company also estimated first-quarter and full-year earnings below the average analyst estimate.
** AKEBIA THERAPEUTICS INC, $23.92, +40.71 pct
The biopharmaceutical company’s shares jumped more than 43 percent in their debut after its initial public offering of 5.9 million shares were priced at $17 each, raising about $100 million. At a high of $24.36, the company would be valued at about $445 million.
** CINEDIGM CORP, $2.72, -13.92 pct
The company which provides software for movie theaters and major film studios, priced an offering of 10.2 million class A shares at $2.70 each. The offering values Cinedigm’s shares at a discount of 14 percent to their Wednesday close.
** RADISYS CORP, $3.55, -8.74 pct
The network equipment maker priced the underwritten public offering of 5.7 million common shares at $3.40 each. Needham & Company LLC is acting as sole book-running manager. D.A. Davidson is acting as the co-manager for the offering.
** SYNCHRONOSS TECHNOLOGIES INC, $35.39, -2.88 pct
Brokerage Raymond James cut its rating to “outperform” from “strong buy” on the company’s stock. Synchronoss provides software and services to communication service providers and cable operators to manage subscribers.
** SINOVAC BIOTECH LTD, $7.865, +14.15 pct
The China-based biopharmaceutical company posted a fourth-quarter profit of 10 cents per share compared with a year-ago loss of 8 cents, helped by revenue from its avian flu vaccine Panflu, manufactured under the China government’s stockpiling program.
** ZIOPHARM ONCOLOGY INC, $5.5, +13.40 pct
Mizuho Securities initiated coverage of the company with a “buy” rating, saying it expects ongoing trials on its experimental cancer drugs to be successful. The drugs are being studied as potential treatments for breast cancer and advanced melanoma .
Mizuho has set a price target of $11 on the Ziopharm stock.
** BROOKFIELD PROPERTY PARTNERS LP , $18.98, +0.96 pct
The real estate company said it has acquired about 203.6 million shares of the office landlord Brookfield Office Properties Inc . The company said it will now own, directly or indirectly, about 455 million shares of Brookfield Office Properties, representing about 86 percent of the shares.
** D.R. HORTON INC, $22.05, -1.96 pct
** LENNAR CORP, $40.5, -2.03 pct
** PULTEGROUP INC, $19.41, -1.02 pct
** TOLL BROTHERS INC, $35.92, -1.56 pct
** KB HOME, $18.22, -2.67 pct
U.S. home resales dropped in February to a 19 month-low as cold weather and a shortage of homes for sale continued to sideline potential buyers, according to recent data released by the National Association of Realtors.
** GLAXOSMITHKLINE PLC, $54.05, -1.21 pct
** AGENUS INC, $3.815, -11.28 pct
An experimental cancer vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline, which uses Agenus’ technology, failed a late-stage study in patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
GSK’s vaccine, which contains Agenus’ QS-21 Stimulon booster, also failed to help melanoma patients in another study last September.
** Q2 HOLDINGS INC, $15.7, +20.77 pct
The cloud-based banking services provider’s stock rose about 34 percent in debut after pricing the initial public offering 7.76 million shares at $13 per share, raising about $101 million.
At a high of $17.38, the company was valued at about $555 million.
** GUESS INC, $27.72, -3.62 pct
Apparel maker Guess forecast a surprise loss for the current quarter, citing weak traffic at its stores in North America and pressure in its wholesale business in Europe.
** CLIFTON SAVINGS BANCORP INC, $11.8401, -8.85 pct
Compass Point cut its price target on the bank holding company’s stock to $14 from $16 after Clifton received orders for about $170.6 million of common stock, which was slightly above the minimum of the offering range of $165.8 million. Analyst Laurie Havener Hunsicker sad that the offering was below expectations and there was no community or syndicated offering.
** JPMORGAN CHASE & CO, $60.38, +3.57 pct
JPMorgan is selling its physical commodities business to Mercuria for $3.5 billion, the U.S. bank said on Wednesday, sweeping the fast-growing Swiss trading house into the top league of commodities traders.
** ING US INC, $36.7, +4.17 pct
Deutsche Bank raised the insurer to “buy” from “hold,” saying the reduction of ING Group’s stake in the company to less than 50 percent improves liquidity and the company should be able to join the S&P 500 as early as in August. The brokerage also raised the target price on the stock to $43 from $40. ING US was spun off by Dutch financial services company ING Group in 2013.
** BANK OF AMERICA CORP, $17.98, +3.10 pct
Bank of America Corp is laying off workers at its global trading and investment banking divisions, Bloomberg reported quoting three people with direct knowledge of the decision.
** INFINERA CORP, $9.84, +5.02 pct
Stifel raised its rating on the company, which makes chips used in telecom networks, to “buy” from “hold,” saying demand for 100G solution is now on a much more global scale compared with a year earlier.
“Specifically, we are seeing upgrades emerge in Europe and parts of Asia, versus being concentrated in North America 12 months ago,” analyst Sanjiv Wadhwani wrote in a note to clients.
** HORIZON PHARMA INC, $16.77, +4.68 pct
Shares of the company continued to rise a day after it said it would buy Dublin-based Vidara Therapeutics International Ltd in a reverse merger for $660 million, the latest U.S. company looking to benefit from Ireland’s low corporate tax rates.
The news prompted at least two brokerages, including Cowen and Co and JMP Securities to raise their price targets on Horizon’s stock.
** WALTER ENERGY INC, $7.48, -17.71 pct
** ALPHA NATURAL RESOURCES, $4.32, -2.92 pct
** ARCH COAL INC, $4.33, -0.46 pct
** Peabody Energy Corp, $15.52, -1.40 pct
BofA Merrill Lynch cut its target price on coal miners’ stocks on Thursday, and said it expects lower pricing and oversupply to lead to weak earnings for the companies.
** VERTEX ENERGY INC, $4.46, +16.75 pct
The environmental sciences company entered into a deal with Omega Holdings Company, LLC and some of its units to buy used motor oil re-refining assets. The deal includes $30.8 million in cash, 2 million shares of Vertex’s common stock and the assumption of about $9.7 million in capital leases and other liabilities.
** BG MEDICINE INC, Wednesday close $1.69, +23.67 pct premarket
The cardiovascular diagnostics company reported a smaller quarterly net loss on lower operating expenses and said it expects to increase its 2014 revenue as compared to 2013.
Separately, the company said it received a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, covering Galectin-3 - its blood test for use in patients with chronic heart problems.
** HEWLETT-PACKARD CO, $31.8, +0.57 pct
** EXONE CO, $39.2042, -10.39 pct
** 3D SYSTEMS CORP, $60.34, -3.73 pct
** STRATASYS LTD, $114.21, -1.74 pct
3D printer makers’ stocks slid after PC maker Hewlett-Packard said it will outline plans to enter the commercial3D-printing market in June. The company said it has solved a number of technical problems that have hindered broader adoption of the high-tech manufacturing process.
Separately, ExOne reported a surprise quarterly loss on Wednesday as it sold fewer high-margin printers and forecast 2014 revenue below analysts’ estimates.
** APOLLO GLOBAL MANAGEMENT LLC, $32, -1.66 pct
Marc Spilker, whom the asset management company hired in 2010 to help take it public, is stepping down as president of the private equity and credit investment firm.
** HERMAN MILLER INC, $31.33, +9.13 pct
The office furniture maker on Wednesday forecast current-quarter profit above average analysts’ estimates as demand improved in EMEA and Asia.
** TILLY‘S INC, $12.26, -4.22 pct
The footwear and accessories retailer forecast first-quarter results below average analysts’ estimates and said it expects current-quarter same-store sales to fall at a mid-single digit rate, hurt by weak traffic and a highly promotional teen retail market.
** CHINA MOBILE LTD , $43.35, -2.87 pct
The world’s largest mobile carrier by subscribers said it will spend more this year to bolster its 4G mobile network to counter its first annual profit drop in 14 years. The company blamed pressure from messaging services such as WeChat mobile app from Tencent Holdings Ltd and said on Thursday it will increase capital spending by 22 percent to 225.2 billion yuan ($36.34 billion). One-third of this, or 75 billion yuan, will go to expanding the high-speed 4G service it launched in December.
** BURLINGTON STORES INC, $29.91, +15.48 pct
The off-price retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings above analysts’ estimates, helped by a 4 percent rise in comparable store sales.
** CLIFFS NATURAL RESOURCES INC, $18.94, -0.37 pct
BofA Merrill Lynch cut its target price on the iron ore producer to $16 from $20.
** RECRO PHARMA INC, $9.2, +8.36 pct
Brean Capital initiated coverage on the company with a “buy” rating and a target price of $26, saying its lead drug candidate, Dex-IN, for post-operative pain, has large market opportunities in the United States and Europe.
** ZELTIQ AESTHETICS INC, $18.37, +4.67 pct
Stifel Nicolaus initiated coverage with a “buy” rating, saying the medical device maker’s non-invasive fat-reduction device was gaining momentum in the marketplace. Zeltiq’s CoolSculpting is designed to selectively reduce stubborn fat bulges. Stifel analyst Jonathan Block, who set a price target of $28, said Zeltiq is in the early stages of “successfully penetrating the very large non-invasive body contouring market opportunity.”
** SUNEDISON INC, $21.68, +4.84 pct
The company, which is spinning of its semiconductor division to focus on its solar power business, said Samsung Fine Chemicals would purchase $100 million of its semiconductor unit’s shares in an initial public offering.
SunEdison also said it would buy a 35 percent stake in a polysilicon joint-venture from its partner Samsung Fine Chemicals and transfer the shares to the semiconductor unit. Samsung Fine Chemicals will retain 15 percent of the venture.
** SYNTA PHARMACEUTICALS CORP, $5.3099, +11.79 pct
The company said interim data from a mid-stage study of its lead drug, ganetespib, showed that its drug was active in patients with HER2+ breast cancer and triple negative breast cancer.
Synta said the drug, ganetespib, shrank tumors in 4 of 6 patients with HER2+ breast cancer and 2 of 26 patients with triple negative breast cancer showed tumor shrinkage when assessed at six weeks of treatment.
“While we believe these data are encouraging, the numbers are small and we expect additional data throughout 2014 to support continual development of ganetespib in breast cancer,” Brean Capital analyst Daniel Brims wrote in a note.
Synta said it would present the data at a medical conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
** EAGLE PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $14.799, +2.20 pct
The company said U.S. health regulators have granted a priority review for the marketing application of its experimental drug for the treatment of malignant hyperthermia.
Malignant hyperthermia is a potentially dangerous condition triggered by exposure to certain anesthetics. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will now rule on whether to approve Ryanodex by the target date of July 22, 2014.
** AEGON, $9, +3.69 pct
** METLIFE INC, $53.649, +1.03 pct
** PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL INC, $87.56, +2.28 pct
Shares of life insurers rose as they are seen to be benefiting from the shift in the outlook for U.S. interest rates. U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said on Wednesday that the Fed would probably end its massive bond-buying program in the autumn and could start raising interest rates around six months later, much earlier than what the market had been anticipating.
** MEDIWOUND LTD, $16.879, +20.56 pct
The biopharmaceutical company’s stock rose as much as 24 percent in their market debut, valuing the company at about $354.74 million. The company raised $70 million after its initial public offering of 5 million shares were priced at $14 each, at the lower end of the company’s projected price range.
** BIOTELEMETRY INC, $10.6, +8.05 pct
The medical technology company said it agreed to acquire the cardiac patient services business of privately owned Biomedical Systems Corp for $8.65 million. The acquisition is expected to generate $8 million-$9 million in revenue and $2.5 million-$3.0 million in EBITDA on an annualized basis, the company said. (Reporting by Shubhankar Chakravorty in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)