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U.S. stocks were sharply lower on Tuesday on concerns about the impact of lower oil prices on the global economy and the effect of political turmoil in Greece on the euro zone. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.88 percent at 17,695.15, the S&P 500 was down 0.75 percent at 2,044.78 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.55 percent at $4,714.80.
** CONN'S INC, $21.08, -39.93 pct
The electronics and home appliance retailer withdrew its 2015 profit forecast. CFO Brian Taylor resigned and Mark Haley was appointed interim CFO. The company reported a third-quarter loss of 8 cents per share, compared with a profit of 66 cents per share a year earlier. Conn's, which has been exploring strategic alternatives, said it is "actively engaged" in preliminary discussions with multiple parties.
** MERCK & CO INC, $58.85, -4.90 pct
** CUBIST PHARMACEUTICALS INC, $96.605, -3.97 pct
Merck said it would proceed with its $8.4 billion acquisition of antibiotic maker Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc , despite a patent set back.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Sleet in Delaware invalidated four Cubicin patents Monday, and ruled that Hospira Inc can launch generic version of Cubicin as soon as 2016.
** TRANSOCEAN LTD, $18.31, +2.92 pct
Analysts at Zephirin raised their rating on the offshore rig contractor to "buy" from "sell" and raised their price target to $31 from $20. The analysts named Transocean their top pick for 2015, citing the company's strong balance sheet and ability to generate strong positive free cash flow in a soft demand market.
** SPIRIT AIRLINES INC, $74.24, -12.11 pct
The U.S. airline's stock posted its largest intraday percentage fall in 15 months after the company said its November load factor, or average number of people flown, dropped to 82.1 percent from 83.7 percent a year earlier.
** CAMTEK LTD, $3.16, +5.33 pct
The Israeli company, which makes optical inspection products used by chipmakers, said it received $2.8 million in initial orders from a "leading semiconductor manufacturer".
** PDC ENERGY INC, $33.95, +6.60 pct
The oil and gas company said it expected 2015 capital spending to fall 14 percent to $557 million. Analysts Global Hunter Securities raised their price target to $42 from $38, while SunTrust Robinson raised it to $70 from $52.
** ABERCROMBIE & FITCH CO, $28.09, +6.60 pct
The teen apparel retailer said Chief Executive Michael Jeffries would retire effective immediately and a team led by Arthur Martinez, who has been named executive chairman, would be responsible for managing day-to-day operations until a new CEO was appointed. Jeffries, 70, had stoked controversy when he said the company's clothes were not meant for "fat" people
** TALISMAN ENERGY INC, $4.269, +14.14 pct
** LAREDO PETROLEUM INC, $8.66, +4.72 pct
** MAGELLAN PETROLEUM CORP, $1.0405, +2.86 pct
** GOODRICH PETROLEUM CORP, $3.31, +11.82 pct
** HALCON RESOURCES CORP, $1.61, +2.55 pct
** WHITING PETROLEUM CORP, $33.38, +3.44 pct
Brent crude hit a fresh five-year low on Tuesday before rebounding to near $67 a barrel, as some buyers emerged in the hope that prices are bottoming following a more than 40 percent slide since June.
Brent crude oil rose as much as 1.1 percent to $66.93 a barrel by 9:45 ET, while U.S. crude rose 1.8 percent to $64.20.
** AUTOZONE INC, $604.16, +3.98 pct
The second-largest U.S. auto parts retailer reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by lower gas prices and colder-than-usual weather that encouraged customers to ready their cars for a harsh winter.
** NATIONAL BANK OF GREECE SA, $2.061, -14.48 pct
The largest Greek bank's shares fell after the Greece government brought forward a presidential vote in a political gamble that raised uncertainty over the country's transition out of its bailout.
Euro zone finance ministers earlier said they were willing to grant Greece's request for only a two-month extension to its bailout program.
** MANCHESTER UNITED PLC,, $15, -8.70 pct
Director Edward Glazer, son of company's former owner Malcolm Glazer, to sell 3 million shares at undisclosed price
Company also expects a rise in net player capital expenditure and player wages in the near term, according to regulatory filing.
** PEP BOYS-MANNY MOE AND JACK, $8.51, -9.08 pct
The auto parts retailer reported loss of 3 cents per share for the third quarter, compared with earnings of 2 cents per share a year earlier, hurt by an asset impairment charge and severance costs. The company is still looking for a new CEO after Mike Odell resigned in September.
** BLUEBIRD BIO INC, $80.7892, +65.25 pct
The drug developer said four beta-thalassemia patients transplanted with its LentiGlobin product, including one with the most severe form of the genetic blood disorder, were essentially cured, prompting several brokerages to raise their price targets on the stock. Roth Capital Partners raised its price target to $90 from $50, Piper Jaffray to $112 from $52, Suntrust Robinson to $115 from $57 and Wedbush Securities to $94 from $51
** PETROBRAS SA, $8.01, -2.67 pct
The Brazilian state-run oil company faces a lawsuit in a federal court in New York related to alleged contract fixing and bribery charges that lawyers say inflated the value of its assets. The suit was filed on behalf of investors who bought U.S.-traded shares between May 20, 2010 and Nov. 21, 2014. The company's market value dropped to about $60 billion from about $150 billion during the period.
** UTI WORLDWIDE INC, $11.25, -13.46 pct
The logistics company said Chief Executive Eric Kirchner had resigned and Edward Feitzinger would replace him, effective immediately. Feitzinger, who joined UTi in 2010, had been executive vice president of global operations since 2012.
** SEADRILL LTD, $11.94, +3.20 pct
The Norway-based driller's stock rose following a share purchase by chairman & top owner, billionaire investor John Fredriksen, who raised his stake to 24.15 percent on Tuesday, buying 1.3 million more shares at $11.68 per share, a day after his investment vehicle Hemen Holding bought 2.7 million shares on Monday.
** MAZOR ROBOTICS LTD, $14.24, +17.49 pct
The Israel-based medical device-maker said it received two orders in China and one in Taiwan for its Renaissance surgery guidance systems. The orders from China are the company's first since the China Food and Drug Administration approved the system.
** VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC, $46.68, -4.54 pct
The largest U.S. wireless carrier said promotional offers and price cuts in its wireless business would eat into profit for the fourth quarter.
** SONY CORP, $20.52, -2.98 pct
Sony Pictures Entertainment was demanded by a group that claimed responsibility for the massive computer hack at the company to cancel the release of "The Interview," a film comedy that depicts an assassination plot against North Korea's leader.
** VALEANT PHARMACEUTICALS INTERNATIONAL INC, $140.98, -2.06 pct
The Canadian drugmaker is abandoning its growth-by-acquisitions strategy for the time being to try to reduce debt, boost its stock price and one day return to its traditional deal-making in a stronger position. (Compiled by Rosmi Shaji in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings)